Never does art cease amaze my tiny little brain with its elements of reality and fiction and abilities to facilitate positive reactions even after forty years of existing. Martin Scorsese is a Mt. Rushmore head of Hollywood directors in my book and for exceptional reason. His dark depiction of vigilante justice in the grimy streets of 70’s New York couldn’t have been painted better nor starred anyone other than Scorsese’s right hand man Robert DeNiro as the iconic Travis Bickle, a Vietnam war veteran who drives taxis at night to cope with his endless insomnia. In turn, Bickle slowly falls to the darkest depths of the world surrounding him while detaching himself from the recesses of his normality. It is one of the greatest characters put to film as well as being a true American classic in the world of cinema that everyone should get a chance to see.
Using New York not only as a backdrop, but as a character itself, Scorsese brings his iconic flair for anti-heroics and violence to the screen while also making one of his few film appearances as an angry passenger on DeNiro’s taxi cab. Taxi Driver is a film that brings the conflict of humanity to the forefront with a character that becomes engulfed by the horrors around him doing a Batman impression if Batman was Thomas Wayne not Bruce Wayne – google Thomas Wayne’s Batman and you’ll get it – only to fall to the darkness and hatred that surrounds him.
Asa writer and novice screenwriter, this was one of the first screenplays that made me realize writing films is one of the many things I hope to accomplish. Setting moods and tones like a great piano player with an orchestral backdrop, the movie’s grittiness feels frighteningly human to a point it makes you question your own moral standings. DeNiro has more than enough iconic performances from his award winning turns as Don Corleone in The Godfather Part II to his time in the ring in Raging Bull, but for me, this was the film that got me into the career of DeNiro. It sounds like high praise, but seeing his growth and methodical acting prowess makes it feel more like a documentary following the life and times of a cabbie rather than a fictionalized depiction of a symbolic character.
Fun fact: This is one of the first appearances of Jodie Foster in a film in her remarkable career.
DeNiro boasts a performance that sees him as saddened as much as he is intimidating. We wait for the eminent break down of his Travis Bickle character like you are walking through a minefield while already having shrapnel in your heart (Iron Man reference). It’s one of the best films in history because it holds up. Anything great is great because it transcends time and categories in which its peers would fall and it is just as topical in today’s world as it was forty years ago. Why? Because it wasn’t afraid to say and do what we as people likely are going through in our everyday lives. What is right and wrong? What would do if you had strong feelings playing through your body like heavy metal or church hymns?
It’s a film that confirmed Scorsese is a master film maker and it will always prove to be a film that reminds film lovers why films are so incredible. The writing, the direction, the visuals, and the concepts are deep, crisp, and grimy yet refined with a hint of aggression thrown in for good measure. It’s a cocktail that will make you feel like you swallowed a dozen Long Island iced-teas during the run-time with but with a sobering outcome in the process. It hits you viciously but methodically and doesn’t allow you to stop watching, even for a moment. It’s a great film and is deserving of all the praise it gets without question and is officially staying in the hearts and heads of film fanatics like myself while becoming a stable in an era of film making that boasted more classics than any decade.