Ben’s review published on Letterboxd:
Taxi Driver focuses on Travis Bickle, a veteran who works as a nighttime taxi driver in New York City. The film hints at potential underlying mental problems he faces, as it serves reason for his feelings of loneliness and needed isolation from others.
The events of the film depict his daily activity over the course of several weeks. This includes falling for a woman named Betsy without the realisation of her given name, going to watch porn films by himself, becoming obsessed with guns, encountering and wanting to help a 12 year-old prostitute, and even attempting to endanger and harm a political candidate.
Taxi Driver iconic status has become something of legend now. There's a great culture of fandom surrounding the film, hailing it as one of, or arguably Scorsese's best.
Hype like this is what can sometimes tarnish first-time viewings of such a film, luckily for me, this was not the case with Taxi Driver, in fact, the more I think about it, the more I think it even surpasses my initial expectation.
I love the unfiltered rawness the film carries, in addition to how atmospheric it intends to be, as well as how much compassion is behind it.
Taxi Driver not only makes itself for a unique experience, but a fascinating character study. You become completely interlocked with Travis as a character, feeling empathy towards his sens of loneliness and isolation. He's flawed and does eventually deceive you, yet it's at that point that you feel betrayed, hurt, almost as though you've been let down by a friend or even a family member. It's great power like this that can make a character as compelling as Travis.
There's masterful direction at work in Taxi Driver. Scorsese essentially manages to make New York City it's own character, as the gruelling streets and dangerous nighttime atmosphere serve almost as an assuring friend to Travis. While many would seize this time as an opportunity to hide until daybreak, Travis finds himself more alive, able to cope with his complex emotions and broken thoughts.
He holds meticulous attention-to-detail over almost every element, and his use of flair and unique personality that he brings to the film completely enhances it a product ahead of it's time, having very clear influence over the perception of modern filmmaking.
Robert De Niro's performance as Travis Bickle is outstanding, and easily a selling point to the film. His mannerisms are so detailed, and I completely believed and worried for his illustrated unstability. Every minute of screentime sees De Niro so committed, and the amount of emotion you feel that stems from him is completely earning of all the acclaim he gathered from this performance. Quite frankly, this is probably the greatest acting I've ever seen out of De Niro.
All of the smaller players are just as significant though in their efforts. Jodie Foster's part may be bit, but she certainly leaves her mark. She first shows up early into the film, and her introduction certainly remains remembered on Travis's behalf, as he constantly bumps into her throughout the film, fascinated simply by her existence- As well as her satisfaction with being a 12 year-old prostitute.
Foster brings the needed emotion and attitude for her character, made all the more impressive given her age and amount of experience as an actor. Meanwhile, Cybill Shepherd plays Betsy, the woman who falls victim to Travis. She conveys the right distress and emotion needed for the given situation, and her performance is managed well when matched against De Niro's as Travis.
Many of the supporting characters simply come in and out of the picture, yet, I found them just as interesting as Travis. Much of this is due to Paul Schrader's excellent script. Not only did I find the dialogue well written and the story immersive, but Travis as a character is so well studied and exhibited, and you can really feel the amount of depth and emotion that's poured into him.
Above all else though, one thing that absolutely stands out about Taxi Driver, if anything doesn't, is the memorising score from Bernard Hermann. There's something so aesthetically pleasing about the music, especially in context to the film. The music is so complimenting upon the visuals, adding so much depth and atmosphere to the overall quality. The main theme alone and how it's appropriate usage within the opening scene alone is reason enough for why this film is so magnificent.
The editing allows the film to move along in such a prominent way, and the attention-to-detail within the production design completely elevates the created mood and environment.
There's something so timeless about Taxi Driver and it's existence. It's a film that's open to discussion and interpretation, yet, it has something for everyone to appreciate which is what ensures it as a classic. It's a remarkable effort by Scorsese, helped by it's performances, it's script, and it's soundtrack. It's a phenomenal film overall.