San Francisco Police Lieutenant Bullitt’s tasked by ambitious Walter Chalmers, to guard Johnny Ross, a Chicago mobster who’s about to turn evidence against the organisation. Chalmers wants Ross’ safety at all cost, or else Bullitt will pay the consequences.
There were so many great things about this film. You’ve got to love late 1960s cinematography. Contrary to being even a “typical” cop film of its day, many of the scenes here were shot in such a way as to convey a message to the viewer which goes beyond the plotline itself. The is an “urban” film–numerous scenes reflect the city and the mood of 1968 by occasionally commenting on racial issues of the day (the black doctor who is asked to be replaced), and conspicuous shots of blacks, other minorities (after Ross is shot at the hotel) and hippies, porn shops on the corner, etc. I found the airport tarmac chase scene even better than the car chase, the dwarfing of the characters and deafening din by the jumbo Pan American 747s completely pulls the viewer in as if he or she is right there. There were some other great scenes which could almost stand alone, such as one in a restaurant where a jazz quartet (with flute-nice 1960s touch) is playing. It fades into the next scene in which Steve McQueen is laying in bed the next morning, reminiscing about the mood in that restaurant.
Many people complain about the slowness of the film, and it is slow, and the use of such “pointless” scenes as the one in the restaurant, but I find this is one of the things that makes it so great. It conveys the complexity and mundaneness of everyday life. This is a refreshing contrast to hollywood films which are always action-packed and one-dimensional. This film is a pleasure to watch. You come away from it feeling like you have experienced many things, and you’re not sure what all they are.