Screen Size Matters: Bullitt

I first watched Bullitt probably around . . . fifteen years ago? Give or take. I was on a classic movie kick, and I’d heard a lot of great things about the movie, so I checked it out. As I recall, I watched it on my computer screen. It was . . . just okay. I remember telling people I thought the car chase wasn’t all it was hyped up to be. That it action scenes have come a long way since then.

If it weren’t for Daniela’s list that I made her, I probably wouldn’t have watched Bullitt again. However, it was on there, and so last night we sat down to watch it. (Slight aside for a moment to plug HBO Max. I know there are a lot of movie streaming services out there, but I’ve really been impressed with HBO, mainly because of their Turner Classic Movies hub. There are always a slew of really good movies to be found there. Are they the newest? No, but they’re excellent and well worth your while.)

Watching Bullitt on a 105″ screen was a much different experience than watching it on a 13″ screen. Sure, in theory screen size is all relative. If you put a 13″ screen close to your face, isn’t it about the same size as a 105″ screen further away? Yes, and yet definitely no.

For one thing, I was able to really appreciate the unusual camera angles and creative shots that went into the movie. It won an Oscar for Film Editing. It’s directed by Peter Yates, who actually began as a professional race driver, interestingly enough. The plot is well-written, and the soundtrack by Lalo Schifrin (of Mission Impossible theme fame) was excellent. But most of all, seeing the car chase on the big screen just made it feel much more immediate. It’s filmed in San Francisco, and some of the driving in it is just awesome. It helps that the entire movie takes a very realistic approach to everything, so when the action scenes come, they bring a much bigger punch.

Overall, I gave it an 8/10, which is much better than what I remember it being.

This is also a reminder that seeing movies in actual theaters is even better than seeing them in a home theater. Again, I get the whole “size is relative” argument. But which would be more impressive: seeing a 50 foot colossus from 500 feet away, or seeing a 5 inch action figure from 5 inches away? My proportions might be off, but you get the picture. You can tell your brain “it’s basically the same size” as much as you want, but in the end, you’re not fooling anyone. Maybe if you could watch it in VR, you might be able to create the same sort of effect, but for now, I’m really looking forward to hopefully getting out to the movies again this year.

Marvel movies demand it.


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