For 1 Year, 100 Movies, I will watch all of AFI’s 100 Years, 100 Movies list (compiled in 2007) in one year- and will complete a goal on my 2013 Manifesto. Come along on the ride with me- oh, and please pass the popcorn!
Taxi Driver is a dark, gritty look at the life of a recent Vietnam vet, Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro), directed by Martin Scorsese. Travis is a loner who struggles with insomnia, so he looks for work at night and finds a job as a taxi driver. De Niro narrates the driving scenes, revealing his character to lack compassion for the ‘scum’ of the streets. While driving he spots Betsy (Cybill Shepherd), a campaign worker for Senator Palantine. He puts her on a pedestal because of her beauty. He feels that she is untouched by the filth in the streets around her. He approaches her to ask her out, and is actually a bit sweet. Betsy goes out with him but after Travis takes her to an adult film she walks out and refuses to return his phone calls.
Travis doesn’t have anyone else to anchor him, and after the breakup begins his decent into madness. Travis builds up an arsenal while planning an attack on Senator Palantine, who he has fixated on because of the connection with Betsy. Before he can put his plan into action, Travis runs into a young prostitute named Iris (Jodie Foster). She becomes his next damsel to be rescued. Instead of taking her up on her offer of “a good time,” Travis takes her to lunch and tries to convince her to leave her pimp, Sport (Harvey Keitel). This scene leaves no doubt for the viewer as to why both De Niro and Foster were nominated for Best Acting Academy Awards for this film.
The filming in this movie is incredible- and one of the best examples is of the next scene at the senator’s rally- the shot is focused on Travis’ chest as he gets a pill that he takes to keep calm out of its container, suddenly sweeping upward with the pill as he pops it in his mouth we see that Travis has cut his hair into a mohawk. Trouble will clearly ensue. He gets close enough to the senator to shoot, but thankfully the security spots him and he takes off running, only to shift his attention from the senator to Iris’ pimp and clients. This is a bloody blaze of gunfire and red that leaves men dead all over and Iris huddled in a corner scared to death. The overhead shots of the rampage are amazing, but sickening as well. So of course Scorsese nailed it. It ends a little strange for me- after nearly becoming a national terror threat, Travis is viewed as a local hero as the ‘savior’ of Iris. He seems ‘normal’ again, but after how far he tilted, this sudden realignment feels off.
The applause for this film should land squarely on the shoulders of De Niro, Foster and Scorsese. The acting and filming in this film are worth the price of admission alone. The late 70’s must have been an awesome time to be a film junkie. Taxi Driver is certainly not for little one’s eyes- or for anyone opposed to guns, violence and the like. While it is a solid film, and I agree it should have it’s place on AFI’s list, it’s not exactly a happy feel-good movie that you might want to sit down and watch for fun.
In my humble, non-professional, average movie-goer opinion this movie earns: