Plot – A mentally unstable veteran works as a nighttime taxi driver in New York City, where the perceived decadence and sleaze fuels his urge for violent action by attempting to liberate a presidential campaign worker and an underage prostitute.
Director – Martin Scorsese
Released – 1976
The beauty of Taxi Driver is the film’s ability to be interpreted differently by each viewer, experiencing different emotions and noticing distinct elements of both the film’s central character Travis Bickle (De Niro) and the plot. Something I like to believe was planned by director Martin Scorsese while making this movie.
First and foremost Taxi Driver remains a beautiful portrayal of ’70s New York City and the difficulties faced by Vietnam veterans re-acclimatising to civilian life. You can tell that Travis wasn’t a stable person to start with, maybe due to his time in Vietnam or maybe these issues existed before his time in the forces, but what is clear is New York wasn’t the best place to go to help with his loneliness and isolation, further exacerbated by the working nights as a taxi driver.
You might not condone all the things that Travis says and does, seeing society through his eyes does at least help the viewer understand him at least and sympathise with his struggles as the film progresses. Made even more powerful through the outstanding performance of the De Niro, sure he won an Oscar for his role in The Godfather II, but I feel this is the performance that put him on the map and truly showed the range he capable of. They also fill the supporting cast with stellar performances from then-unknown actors who have now gone onto big things, including a very young Jodie Foster as a child prostitute and an almost unrecognisable young Harvey Keitel.
When it comes to the direction by Martin Scorsese, Taxi Driver isn’t as polished as the movies he produces these days, but this works in the movie’s favour, with the dark and gritty atmosphere the perfect mood for the story, with the striking visuals of New York City helping to create some unforgettable sequences, including the famous ‘You talking’ to me?’ scene and the violent finale that leaves a lasting impression in the same vein as Scarface (1983).