Hello and welcome to Ryan’s Movie Reviews! As a heads up, this review will contain some adult themes.
You may remember that earlier in the year in my review of Whiplash I said that I’d try to watch 52 of IMDb’s Top 250 movies that I hadn’t seen. Since then, I’ve watched some, like American Beauty and Prisoners, but haven’t fully tackled the list. I recently watched Taxi Driver, the 1976 classic from Martin Scorsese. I fell in love with the film, admiring it for being one of Scorsese’s earliest films in his career that was so beautifully made. I just had to review Taxi Driver, making it this week’s review.
Starring Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster and Cybil Shepherd and directed by Martin Scorsese is Taxi Driver. Travis Bickle is lonely, living in New York as an honourably discharged Marine. He takes a night job as a taxi driver but slips into insomnia, and his shift becomes a round the clock job. Travis eventually dreams of cleaning up the city by ridding of its filth. As Travis explores more of the city, he meets Betsy, an attractive political worker and becomes committed to saving the world by plotting to assassinate Charles Palantine, a presidential candidate, before attempting to rescue Iris, a 12-year-old prostitute and saving the day in his eyes.
If you search up Robert De Niro on IMDb or Google, you’ll see that Taxi Driver is one of his most notorious roles. After watching the film, it’s obvious to see why. De Niro’s role of Travis was something that he clearly immersed himself in, and he had such a strong character presence that it is widely considered to be a role that fully cemented De Niro as one of the greats, particularly as the film was released after De Niro’s Oscar success in 1974 for The Godfather Part II. Taxi Driver further demonstrates De Niro’s exceptional acting ability and his character development throughout the film allows the viewer to build a bond with Travis and stay hooked on what is an already brilliant film. Taxi Driver also stars 14-year-old Jodie Foster as Iris, a 12-year-old child prostitute. For such a young actress at the time, Foster’s performance was incredible as she was able to bring great range to Iris’ character. I would have liked to have seen more of Iris in the film, but that didn’t bother me too much. Cybil Shepherd plays Betsy, an attractive political worker who Travis becomes infatuated with. Admittedly, I didn’t like Betsy’s character too much, Shepherd was well cast as Betsy, but I felt she lacked a little something, that I can’t quite exactly put my finger on. Harvey Keitel played Matthew/”Sport”, a pimp who ran the prostitution service that Iris worked for. Matthew was an interesting character, and I liked how he was played by an actor as fantastic as Keitel, but I would’ve loved to have seen more of his character in the film.
The music from Bernard Herrmann was wonderfully orchestrated and suited the film’s tone well. The main theme for Taxi Driver was slightly overplayed in the film but it may be one of the greatest movie themes ever in my opinion. The theme is one of the most powerful themes in a movie as it has a dark undertone that is accompanied by the merrier, lighter side with the saxophone from Tom Scott. The deeper ‘dark’ undertones represent the scum Travis sees over New York while the lighter parts from the saxophone represent the better sides of society to Travis, like how he views Betsy.
The storyline and plot were quite unexpected and while the film was certainly ahead of its time, it did seem rather random for Travis to want to kill Palantine. However, after reflecting on the film, it makes sense as Travis could be jealous of Palantine, or have opposing political views to him. Additionally, Scorsese is notorious for ambiguous endings in his films, so this would just be part of his directorial trademark.
Now for my favourite moments. The opening with Herrmann’s brilliant main theme sets up an interesting premise, particularly with the use of darkness with only the use of traffic lights to illuminate faces and places creating an intriguing atmosphere about what the film could be about. I liked the scene with the passenger and a prostitute, with the passenger asking Travis to hurry up, and Travis having to clean blood and semen off his seats as this emphasises Travis’ want to clean up the scum around him and allows the viewer to sympathise with our protagonist. This is subtly supported by another scene which I enjoyed more over time, which is where Iris enters Travis’ cab, trying to escape Matthew. Matthew quickly intervenes and captures Iris before handing Travis a crumpled $20 bill, that acts as a reminder to Travis of the filth surrounding him. The training montage of Travis preparing to kill Palantine was something enjoyable and somewhat exciting to watch as it shows how prepared Travis is to do what he feels so strongly about in. In this montage is one of my favourite movie scenes of all time. The infamous ‘you talking to me’ scene. Here, De Niro shows off his phenomenal acting ability, delivering one of the most memorable monologues in movie history. The assassination attempt on Palantine was brilliantly done. We see a new side of Travis here with his mohawk and fully turned to his idea of cleaning up the filth. It was a great scene to watch and the twist of Travis being unable to carry out the assassination. The sequence of Travis going to rescue Iris was one of my favourite parts as it shows Travis still committed to cleaning the scum and saving the day. This brought out a violent side of the film which was great to see and was a good payoff for what the film was trying to show throughout. The ending was so awesome to watch as it was left somewhat open. We see Travis complete a taxi job for Betsy, driving away after giving her a free ride. He drives off and we see his eyes in the reflection of the rear-view mirror and Travis notices something that agitates him. The film ends here, leaving open to interpretation of what happens next. What was in the mirror? Is Travis about to get killed? Is Travis about to go on a rampage?
Taxi Driver is one of my favourite movies and gets an 8.5/10 from me. It had superb acting and a different story that was new and enjoyable to watch. Robert De Niro helps this film to shine and as a result, Travis Bickle earns a spot on my favourite characters list.
Thanks for reading this review. Join me in a few weeks time for the review of a movie about Hollywood in 1969, and I’ll also be reviewing a sitcom about a school soon too! See you then!