"You talking to me? Well I'm the only one here."
If you look up the word 'masterpiece' in the dictionary, Taxi Driver is its definition. Not only does it appeal subjectively to audiences but it is a complete film in all the technical aspects as well. It has a stunning cinematography capturing the dark and dirty streets of New York City, a gorgeous and eerie score that accompanies the action perfectly, some amazing camera angles and shots, perfect editing, and some of the greatest ever performances you will see in a film. Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver is a visually stunning film that happens to be one of the greatest character studies of all time. There have been hundreds of films focusing on characters suffering from some sort of traumatic experience from war, but none have captured that complex mental breakdown as well as De Niro's Travis Bickle. Much of the credit has to be given to screenwriter Paul Schrader who suffered a similar mental breakdown and dealt with it by writing this amazing and somewhat autobiographical script, but De Niro and Scorsese took it even further by doing the best work of their careers. There isn't a single scene in this film that feels out of place and De Niro plays every note perfectly. There isn't a better character study about a Vietnam war veteran than Travis Bickle who slowly descends into psychotic behavior as he isolates himself from the rest of society and decides he has to try to do something to clean the filthy streets of New York.
Imagine a man who has served as a Marine in the Vietnam war only to come home and find that not only does the country he has served not appreciate him, but it has become a filthy and dirty place. That is such the case with Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) who is mentally unstable and suffering from insomnia. He decides that he might as well work as a taxi driver since he spends all night driving around anyway. We don't get any flashbacks about his experience in the war, but he is clearly disturbed by the deteriorated society he lives in. He finds it incredibly difficult to interact with anyone, but in the midst of all the filth and darkness there is one person who shines a ray of hope for him. The only redemptive quality for Travis in this city is Betsy (Cybill Shepherd), who works for the presidential nomination campaign of Senator Charles Palantine (Leonard Harris). He invites Betsy out for a cup of coffee and she accepts. They share some sort of bond, but he messes up when he invites her to the cinema and takes her to a porno movie (he's so disconnected with society that he thinks it's what normal couples do). That is where their relationship ends and he completely breaks down. He becomes fascinated with guns and decides he has to clean the streets of New York. One of the first steps he takes is trying to save a twelve year old prostitute named Iris (Jodie Foster) from her pimp and lover, Sport (Harvey Keitel), but his mind is clearly troubled and there seems to be nothing that will put it at ease.
Taxi Driver is my favorite Scorsese film so far and I can't believe it took me so long to watch it. I can see how this film clearly resonated at a time where American society was clearly disturbed after the events of Vietnam and the Watergate scandal, but the film has transcended the test of time and it continues to be a disturbing portrait of a mentally ill man dealing with isolation. It's a wonderful film that somehow speaks to audiences differently. It has all the qualities of an art house film but somehow it has found a mainstream audience (probably thanks to Robert De Niro's stunning performance). After having seen several clips of this film I always imagined it focused on this taxi driver following around Iris, but that was actually only a small part of the film. Jodie Foster is so great in those short but memorable scenes that she is in almost every highlight of Taxi Driver. The real star however is Robert De Niro who gives such a believable and natural performance of a troubled and complex man. Taxi Driver is one of the most powerful and groundbreaking films that I've seen and so much has been written about it already. It's a unique experience and one that everyone should go through!