Bullitt ★★★★

It's very interesting reading how Steve McQueen, in preparing to play the titular Bullitt, modelled his performance on San Francisco detective Dave Toschi, because of course Toschi was heavily involved in the hunt for the infamously unresolved Zodiac Killer, and later immortalised by Mark Ruffalo in David Fincher's Zodiac - a film which Bullitt reminds me of in a way, despite focusing on very different areas of crime. It wouldn't surprise me if Fincher didn't take a cue from Peter Yates' much earlier film because they both share a deep commitment to portraying the procedural, rigorous elements of the police force. Bullitt is a hard-nosed, near documentarian cop thriller adaptation that gets in, does it's job and gets out, leaving perhaps the greatest car chase in cinema history and an iconic, defining lead performance.

McQueen is remembered heavily for Bullitt, among several other roles, and it's not difficult to see why; he's rigid, quiet, stern and cool, radiating complexity as a beacon of justice in the middle of a rock (the police) and a hard place (the Mob) but standing his ground, like an immovable object facing an unstoppable force. McQueen is as magnetic a screen presence here as he ever was, in his far too brief career. The other point of note is, of course, *that* car chase through the hills and streets of San Fran, and this is where Yates himself deserves due as he crafts something truly remarkable; a thrilling, involving and rather epic blend of motor car and fast paced, choppy editing that has inspired a hundred imitators, and almost no one has come close in over 40 years to topping what he achieves here. In all the justified hyperbole about the vehicular theatrics, the actual plot of Bullitt can get lost in the melee & that's a shame as Yates handles well a solid script here; terse, factual, tough and with a strong twist in the tale that pushes what could have been a standard witness protection story into deeper and more interesting territory.

A film that almost gets lost under its most iconic moments, Bullitt is a near definition of 60's cinematic cool - blasting its way toward the 1970's with a calculated style and terrific jazzy soundtrack that doesn't care if you're a fan or not, a star in Steve McQueen at the top of his game who clearly feels the same, and assured directorial hands from Peter Yates who keeps the narrative from becoming unwieldy or sensationalist. Endlessly aped, infrequently matched.

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