My SOS (significant other schmoopie) does not like older movies, the cutoff being somewhere in the 80s it seems so I had to watch this one alone. Like many movies of the 60s and 70s the movie revels in its understatement and realism. I use realism in the sense that the characters talk naturally and for the most part act organically; the police even engage in some actual police work. There is only one scene of hyper self-awareness where Bullitt’s girlfriend questions how he handles the depravity his job forces upon him. It’s an old trope, one best explored in comic books in my opinion, and it connects to the subdued ending where Bullitt washes his face and stares into the mirror.
My complaint with the movie is the thinness of the plot. Maybe I am spoiled, but this would not be out of place in an hour long episode of CSI. Instead it is stretched out with some unconvincing subplot involving a senator and a directorial style that takes its time with scenes. I don’t want to get into an argument about whether attention spans have gotten shorter, but I feel as though modern directors are on the whole much better at pacing.
Of course any review of this movie is not complete without mentioning the car chase. Watching it you can see how iconic and influential it is. Just like the rest of the movie this sequence is decidedly unrushed, glorying in the roar of the engines and the ahead-of-its-time camera work. Legions of movies and games owe a debt of gratitude.
I try to skim only the cream of older movies. Despite many claims movies were not better back then, it’s just you forgot all the mediocre stuff and I would rather watch modern mediocrity. In Bullitt’s case I feel as though I plunged my ladle a little too deeply into the cream.