Review : Taxi Driver (1976)
Martin Scorsese pulls out all the stops in his vigilante classic, propelled by a show-stopping performance from two time Oscar winner and screen legend Robert DeNiro.
Starting in a somewhat odd fashion, Taxi Driver employs a heavily musical intro with some illusional effects from the start. Wasting no time, the movie moves straight into the story after the opening credits and establishes its lead actor, whom the film is firmly centred around throughout.
This is easily one of Robert DeNiro’s most famous appearances and notorious characters, of which he had played a few to say the least. DeNiro is captivating and draws the audience into his world through his somewhat misguided narrations and the transformational character that he portrays.
Albert Brooks makes a quality appearance as the strange character Tom, who, even with a great actor in the role, he doesn’t seem to fit too well into the story, and could have been a significantly smaller role played by an unknown.
The standout performance of the movie is from none other than the director himself, Martin Scorsese. Making a small appearance as a passenger in DeNiro’s taxi, his words and his delivery are both outstanding, and to make it even better, this role was just a coincidence as the original actor had to pull out. The scene that it is contained within is symbolic and shows a certain insecurity and vulnerability in both characters, a very key moment for the movie and part of its transitional movement.
High placed cast members Jodie Foster and Harvey Keitel don’t make substantial appearances until later in the feature. In Foster’s case, she becomes much more prominent in the latter part of the movie, with her character becoming a central element and the movie dealing with some darker themes such as child prostitution through her, but in a very effective way.
The movie itself is beautifully scored, the final score by frequent Alfred Hitchcock collaborator Bernard Herrmann. The score is always at the epicentre of the film, and it surrounds everything that happens narratively and everything in between – true brilliance in cinema music is achieved here.
Taxi Driver explores the effects of insomnia on a person, but also mixes in some light hearted scenes in the first half of the picture that really contrast the dark imagery that comes out during the second half. The feature is dialogue heavy in some parts, but that only adds to the movie and makes it more down to earth and cinematic tonally. The transformation of Travis Bickle from his straight-on hair cut to his Mohawk further compliments his insanity and confirms to the audience that that transformation has been complete and that he has become the titular vigilante.
Scorsese shows off his stylistic chops in this 1976 film, which is unafraid to be violent or even obscene at any point, because it all contributes to the slow-burning build up to the shockingly violent and immediately powerful climax of the piece, that precedes the questionable epilogue that has been the subject of many arguments and opinions, but remains unsolved. The movie does indeed stand the test of time, and even on its small $1.3 million budget, it manages to become a classic in the eyes of many and has been included on many top films list over the years. The ending of Taxi Driver is very precise and intellectual, firstly reprising the music from the beginning of the feature and then recreating the effects and scenes, to almost make the movie replay itself, bringing new meaning to the phrase, coming full circle. Mastermind of the movie, screenwriter Paul Schrader, is to thank for that clever ending and the impressive writing of the whole movie, which is a prime example of tremendous 1970’s American cinema.