Bullitt ★★★★½

Alright, let's get it out of the way first.

The car chase. I wouldn't say it is THE best car chase I've ever seen - I think the ones from The French Connection, The Seven Ups, maybe To Live And Die In LA and a couple from The Driver are better, off the top of my head, but in terms of the context of the film it works perfectly. It's tense, it's out of control, and it sums up its characters well.

OK? Right, now the rest of the film. Oh yeah, there is a lot of a 'rest of the film' to talk about here. The wonderful thing about approaching Bullitt for the first time or after a long time since viewing it is that because it is so overshadowed by its car chase hype (and even perhaps that fabulous and iconic credits sequence which still looks superb over 40 years on) is that you can open yourself up to being surprised by just how much depth there is to the film.

Steve McQueen is a San Francisco cop who, along with two partners, is assigned the job of looking after a Mafia squealer before he testifies in court. However, after the witness is 'gotten to', McQueen becomes suspicious of the motives of the ambitious politician (Robert Vaughn) who assigned him the job and sets about digging deeper into the case.

As I say, there is depth to the plot here that can even surprise you upon a third or fourth viewing. Taking its time to establish its characters and not being afraid to slow itself down just as you feel it may break loose (it's in those moments that the stunning Jacqueline Bisset is used so well), it makes the car chase and a riveting hospital chase all the more explosive.

Actually, for me the latter scene is way more thrilling and well staged than that car chase. A splendid cat-and-mouse job, it is as perfectly filmed as it is tense. The end scenes are incredibly good, too, and tremendously rewarding with McQueen, who is as outstanding throughout as he always was, carrying the whole thing with utter conviction when it could easily have got all too silly and far fetched in lesser hands.

Bullitt has regularly been passed off in many quarters as a 'one scene film' and while this can be a monkey on the back of many films, I actually think it does this particular film as a whole a favour. It affords you the chance to be surprised by one of the very best crime and cop thrillers of its time, and also by the extremely high quality of performances by McQueen, Bisset and Vaughn. A truly excellent film.

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