The Location. As much as I love the feel of ’70s era New York City, I almost equally love ’60s era San Francisco.
The Cast. Steve McQueen. Jacqueline Bisset. Robert Vaughan. Norman Fell (Three’s Company’s Mr. Roper!), Robert Duvall, Vic Tayback. And uncredited bit parts by Walter Matthau, Barbara Bosson, Joanna Cassidy, and Suzanne Somers (Three’s Company, again!).
The Cop. From Dirty Harry to Die Hard, McQueen’s Frank Bullitt (rumored to be based on Zodiac killer homicide investigator David Toschi) is the blueprint for every young, hip, near-insubordinate cop who plays by his own rules.
The Chase. A brilliant, nearly 10 minute long car chase elegantly unfolds around the movie’s mid-point. Completely devoid of dialog and filled with driver point of view shots, it’s a standard-bearer for how to effectively present an action sequence.
The Dialog. Conversations are quiet and economical in their portrayal, and sometimes take place out of the camera’s/viewer’s earshot.
The Mood. Director Peter Yates (surprisingly also responsible for 1976’s Bill Cosby/Raquel Welch/Harvey Keitel vehicle Mother, Jugs & Speed, and the woeful 1983 sci-fi dud Krull) sets up small, character-defining scenes that add depth, like Bullitt getting some food at the hospital, or his time in bed with his girlfriend. And the shot composition is well thought out and full of impact.
The Score. Rarely used, it didn’t hit you over the head, allowing the story to dictate emotion.
Certainly a movie of its era, Bullitt is the kind of film that doesn’t spoon feed every last detail to the viewer. It requires you to actively participate in the experience, pay attention to what’s going on, invest in the characters, and enjoy the ride!