There are those films that have defined an actor’s career. Films that have become so closely attached to the actor’s identity that none of his other films can quite compare. This is mainly due to the unbelievable performance the actor gives that makes the film a very memorable motion picture. Taxi Driver is unquestionably one of those. It not only features Robert De Niro in his rawest and most visceral role ever as well as an incredible Jodie Foster but also demonstrates a no-holds-barred directing approach from the legendary Martin Scorsese. It is a film unlike any other in cinema history.
Taxi Driver is directed by Martin Scorsese and also stars a young Jodie Foster and an excellent Cybill Shepard. The film tells the story of the deranged and psychotic taxi driver Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) as he struggles to accept the state of corruption and decadence his city is in. Taxi Driver is a crime drama lasting around two hours.
The film would not have been so influential and effective in the world of cinema to this day had it not been for the groundbreaking performance that Robert De Niro delivers. He is at his most primal in Taxi Driver. He fully embraces his character, Travis Bickle, along with all his insecurities and violent tendencies. Bickle is a lonely, angry and frustrated individual who, in his eyes, is witnessing the decay of his beloved city. He decides to start ‘fixing’ the system with terrible consequences. De Niro transmits all of this in such an effortless manner that is simply uncanny. I am constantly blown away by how believable he is and how highly engrossing his performance is.
Robert De Niro’s work in Taxi Driver is at its most spellbinding in one particular scene. Travis Bickle is upset. He is on the verge of completely blowing up. He wears and zips up his jacket, moves across the room and looks at himself in the mirror. He imagines a conversation with his target whilst pulling out his gun. It is then that he utters one of cinema’s most iconic lines: “You talkin’ to me?!”. What I love about this particular scene is the intimidating look Robert De Niro is able to give in the scene. We truly believe that this is a crazy person who is about to lose it all in a second. The scene works marvelously and is one of the many highlights in this film.
Another remarkable performance in Taxi Driver is that by Jodie Foster. Then only at the tender age of 13, Foster nevertheless is able to deliver a superb role as the prostitute Iris. She becomes the center of Travis Bickle’s mission to save the city from everything that is rotten. He is looking to rescue Iris and acts as her guardian. Foster plays Iris to perfection as she makes us feel for the young girl who is a misguided soul lost in a sea of abusive people. It is a risky role by Foster given her age but that is almost forgotten after one witnesses the performance. It is Jodie Foster at her very best.
The acting in Taxi Driver is not the only element that is extraordinary. In fact, one would find it very hard to imagine such a film without the unique vision of the legendary Martin Scorsese.
It is well-known that Taxi Driver was directed during a troubled time in Scorsese’s career when he had thought that his time at Hollywood was at its end. Scorsese felt that he had nothing to lose in making this film. The result is a film that delivers such an intense and mesmerizing experience that sticks with the viewer long after it ends.
I especially love his use of color in the film. There is this washed-out look to the film that makes it more gritty and real. That definitely helps the film feel more believable. His pacing is also superb as the events flow smoothly with no bumps or hiccups.
A mark of a great director is allowing the actors to deliver the best they can. That is definitely the case here. In Taxi Driver, Scorsese’s supervision lets De Niro and Foster do just that. He is one of those directors that knows how to get the most out of his cast. Needless to say, Martin Scorsese is one of a kind.
Throughout the history of cinema there have been many films that dealt with psychotic and violent characters. However, many have stumbled in one or more aspect in telling these stories. Thankfully, Taxi Driver does not belong with those films at all. It is such a powerful film with a strong message that it remains relevant and resonant to this day. The fact that the film has aged superbly is further proof of that. Though it is a hard task to pick a favorite Martin Scorsese film, I would find it very hard to like any of his other films more than Taxi Driver. In my eyes, it is a perfect film and one that will surely live long as a masterpiece.