What is under inspection today is a film I’ve actually wanted to watch for some time. Like Shawshank Redemption, Taxi Driver is considered a cinematic classic and masterpiece—one of the greatest films ever concocted. Such is appropriate given my overall thoughts is fairly similar to the film I’ve compared it to!
Though that is not to say the films are all that similar. Shawshank is fairly blunt, with an approachable aura that invites and indulges in many enjoyable fashions. Taxi Driver is more rough, jagged, and puzzle-like. Motivations aren’t clear-cut and neither are the characters. Robert De Niro as Travis is the heart of it all; all he can hope to do is make an impact.
“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.” – IMDb
This is kind of a difficult film to discuss for a few reasons:
- Elaborating on the themes and “point” of the film would involve delving deeply into the events of the story.
- A lot of the themes and “point” of the film are hidden in plain sight.
- I didn’t pick up on a lot of things until about halfway through.
Just hours removed from finishing, this is something I’ll have to re-watch at some point. Like a couple others I’ve watched since March began, I believe I didn’t get the chance to appreciate it until the point of no return. One scene was all it took for things to click—ah, now I can watch this with a purposeful view… the runtime halfway expired.
Will I go into those details? Vaguely. Truth be told, my desire to write on this is stricken with a particular illness. That desire to re-watch this, to really solidify my thoughts and opinions, prevents me from putting things down with confident resolve. Nevertheless, I’ll put some things down.
We All Want
As simple as it would be to simply say, “Haha, Robert De Niro plays a crazy guy!” the reality is that he’s probably less unhinged than advertised. His desires, while not necessarily ordinary, is similar to most humans. To love, to help, to be relied on, and to make an impact.
Navigating life is more difficult for Travis, who seems lost in the “filth” and the “scum” of society. As the film opens, we’re immediately greeted to his applying to be a taxi driver. He likes to drive, so he may as well be paid for it. Ironically, being a taxi driver only gets him closer to the people he considers “one of them.” Those that revel in the pit that is the nightlife of debauchery: drugs, prostitution, and crime.
From this point, Taxi Driver kind of meanders forward without a true path. Things simply happen that compound Travis’s desire for “true” change. Most of what the film is is a fuse that’s lit by events that transpire early on, leading to the end before the proverbial bomb explodes. Various signs of human desire, nestled within the psyche, make their appearance along the way.
Sensations of desire, connection, and self-fulfillment is what shows itself most brightly. How can one find hope in a place one finds hopeless? So often scenes will show him simply watching something or someone intently, analyzing their intent, perhaps their very essence. When he finds something of interest, he yearns for it, to be able to feel something. Travis doesn’t know a lot, but he does what he can.
That’s… pretty much it. Following the life of one person who’s a little off-kilter, trying to find some sense of purpose. Many scenes are uncomfortable given the nature of his person, as well as the danger he ends up in because of it. Without something to really grasp, it can come off as aimless, which I’m willing to acknowledge affected this first viewing. Hence the desire to re-watch it: There may very well be more beyond.
A slow-burn with a lot underneath. Many consider it Martin Scorsese’s magnum opus; I’m a little unsure of that the first time around. Multilayered and intriguing, it’s a lot more once a proper framing can be established. Otherwise, it could very well seem like a lazy, dreary character study. Those looking for an intriguing story will find solace here. While my score is not as flattering as could be for a “greatest film ever made,” that could change upon re-watch.
Final Score: 8/10
The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.
For more, check out the March of the Movies Archive!
Thank you for your time. Have a great timezone.