Bullitt

Bullitt ★★★★★

50th Anniversary screening and first time watch on the big screen.

The screening wasn't perfect. Too many scenes suffered from motion smooth jittering, except for the iconic car chase..thankfully. Despite that, this film is better than ever. As a Steve McQueen super fan throughout my 20's, I watched this film many times from the mid-90's to the mid-2000's, not because I loved the story or the tedious pacing, but because McQueen looked cooler than ever in this film. In my young mind, he was the symbol of manhood.

Rewatching this film now on the big screen as a middle aged adult, I was supremely satisfied and in new ways. I was engrossed in the nuanced storytelling and what I found convoluted when I was younger, I saw clear as day now. And most of all, McQueen is still the coolest film actor of all time. He is at the peak of his powers here. The camera loves him. This is a crime-thriller that strives for realism and authenticity and at times to a fault. The procedural elements can come off too cold and its grounded nature can make scenes still feel slow paced. But, McQueen's subtle performance and screen presence makes up for all of that.

At a time now where terms like "toxic masculinity" and "privileged white male" are bandied about, I point to Frank Bullitt as a white male character that possibly satisfies both sides of today's political spectrum. His girlfriend is independent and quite possibly smarter than him. He nonchalantly colludes with a character (who is being racially targeted) to distract their white superiors. He's not one for politics, ambition or corruption, yet he is the anti-Dirty Harry by treating both lawmen and criminals with equal courtesy and/or suspicion. When he draws his service weapon (a standard .38), it's only at the very last moment when it's absolutely necessary. And did I mention, he's super cool?

In 1968, this film was considered groundbreaking for its realistic tone and style. If you doubt that, then I recommend watching The Detective, starring Frank Sinatra, which came out the same year. Both are gritty cop films, but you will easily see the passing of the guard in terms of filmmaking and performance.

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