Bullitt (1968): Narrative Structure (Detailed Plot)

Narrative Structure (Detailed Plot)

Spoiler Alert

The suspenseful plot is set over the course of a weekend, from Friday night to Monday morning.

On a Friday night in Chicago mobster Johnny Ross flees the Outfit.

The next morning, SFPD detective Lieutenant Frank Bullitt and his team, Delgetti and Stanton are tasked by Senator Walter Chalmers with guarding Ross over the weekend, until he can be presented as a witness to a Senate subcommittee hearing on organized crime on Monday morning.

The detectives are told he is staying in a cheap hotel on Embarcadero. Delgetti will take the first shift, then Stanton and then Bullitt.

At 1am Sunday, while Stanton is phoning Bullitt to say Chalmers and a friend want to come up, Ross unchains the room door. Two hitmen burst in shooting Stanton in the leg and Ross in the neck. Chalmers holds Bullitt responsible for the injuries to Ross.

After Bullitt thwarts a second assassination attempt at the hospital, Ross dies from his wounds. Bullitt sends the body to the morgue as a John Doe in order to conceal the death and to be able to keep his investigation open.

Bullitt (1968) Official Trailer – Steve McQueen Movie – Bing video

An informant says that Ross was in town because he stole millions of dollars from the mob. Bullitt also finds out that he made a long-distance phone call to a hotel in San Mateo.

While driving his Ford Mustang, Bullitt becomes aware that he is being followed by a Dodge Charger driven by the two hitmen.

An extended chase ensues through the streets of San Francisco to Brisbane where the Dodge crashes off the road, killing its occupants in a fiery explosion.

Bullitt and Delgetti are confronted by their boss, Captain Sam Bennett, and Chalmers (who is being assisted by SFPD Captain Baker).

After being served a writ of habeas corpus, Bullitt reveals that Ross has died. Bennett ignores the writ because it’s the weekend and he lets Bullitt investigate the long-distance phone call to San Mateo. With no car, Bullitt gets a ride from his girlfriend Cathy.

At the hotel, Bullitt finds the woman who was phoned now garroted in her room.  Cathy follows him and is left horrified by the scene. On the way back to San Francisco she confronts Bullitt about his work saying “Frank, you live in a sewer” and wonders “What will happen to us?”

While examining the victim’s luggage, Bullitt and Delgetti discover a travel brochure for Rome and traveler’s checks made out to an Albert and Dorothy Renick.

Bullitt requests their passport applications from Chicago. Bullitt, Captain Bennett, Chalmers and Captain Baker gather around the telecopier as the applications arrive.

It turns out Chalmers sent Bullitt to guard Albert Renick, a used car salesman from Chicago, while his wife Dorothy was staying in San Mateo.

Bullitt realizes that Ross was playing Chalmers by using Renick as a double in order to escape the country Sunday night.

At the San Francisco International Airport, Delgetti and Bullitt watch carefully the Rome gate. However, Ross (now using Renick’s passport) has outsmarted them, switching to an earlier London flight.

Bullitt boards the plane after it is ordered to return to the terminal, but the mobster escapes through the rear cabin door and runs across the runway.

In the crowded passenger terminal, Ross kills a deputy sheriff before being shot dead by Bullitt.

Chalmers arrives to view the scene, witnessed by the horrified passengers, but he says nothing and then leaves.

The tale ends on early Monday morning, on a beautiful sunny day. Bullitt arrives at his home to find Cathy asleep in his bed, having chosen to stay (despite earlier doubts and uncertainties).

He looks at her (asleep), but does not join her in bed or wakes her up. He closes the door quietly and goes to the bathroom. The water in the sink begins to run, while he examines himself closely in the mirror, failing to register any emotion.

The last shot is not of Bullitt, but of the bullets that he had placed earlier on the armchair.