Chris’s review published on Letterboxd:
It starts very slow. Almost leisurely. Replicating the pace of the movie in general. But more on that in a minute.
The driver of the Charger spots Bullitt's Mustang. Decides to take the upper hand. Follows the detective at a distance. It carries on like that for a moment, but only for a moment. Bullitt turns, drives up a road, the Charger follows.
At the top of the hill the Mustang isn't in sight. The man in the thick-framed glasses looks both ways. Guesses left. In a moment the Mustang appears. In his rear view mirror. He's the one being followed now.
Still the pace doesn't increase, not quite yet. This is all still prologue.
Then it's a bit faster. Like with a pace car at the Indy, the speed is starting to be set. But then Thick-Framed Glasses stops and buckles up. For safety. It's at that point that they are off. A quick and sudden turn, a taxi in the way and the Charger is almost lost. Almost.
But the Mustang regains. Swerves, dodges traffic, keeps up. And for the next seven minutes Bullitt is the fastest movie on the planet. The irony is that The Chase (because it deserves the capitals) is in one of the slowest procedurals around. Bullitt is all about pace, either fast or slow, and how that pace builds tension.
Steve McQueen can move fast or slow. His intensity is constant, regardless of speed. He's perfect for the role. For The Chase. But most importantly for the film. Because honestly Bullitt is far more than The Chase.
Think of the scene where a group of cops stand around a Telecopier (because that deserves a capital too). They wait desperately for a page to print. The sound of the printer going back and forth, back and forth. And nothing else. It's a brilliant scene where no one is doing anything. Then there's the ending. Tension builds as a line of passengers board a plane, slowly, and then the plane pulls away, slowly, only to have to go back, slowly, and unload, even more slowly. None of this is cut short.
And through it all, you are on the edge of your seat.