"A truly amazing film; showing both mental anguish and how we overcome them. DeNiro was perfect for this Scorsese masterpiece, combined with some Hitchc*ck style techniques and a lone-saxaphone score by Bernard Hermann."
The film may seem like a portrayal of a mentally unstable, Vietnam vet turned cabbie, but it has much more depth. It revolves around the conflicts of Travis Bickle's (Robert DeNiro) soul. As a cab driver in the 1970s, a time where drugs and prostitution were most prevalent, Bickle is forced to see ugliness and filth on a daily basis. Being a vet, presumable involved in many heinous acts, we can already assume that he is suffering from some form of PTSD or depression. Even though this is not the first time we see DeNiro as an estranged Vietnam vet, ("Deer Hunter"), his character resembles a "ticking time bomb."
Although the film is set in New York City, our character has little interest in the exact location, according to Bickle, "Every City is the same, they are all filled with the same sc*m." The set was excellent in depicting the trash-filled world due to the garbage strikes in the summer of 1976. The character of Travis Bickle was inspired by the diaries of Arthur Bremer, the man who shot presidential candidate George Wallace in 1976. Screenwriter Paul Schrader also incorporated some of his own personality traits into Bickle's character; loneliness, anger, sexual and romantic frustration...etc. Schrader decided to use Vietnam because of the many mentally unstable vets it produced. The fact that Bickle takes the cab night-shift, proving that it is not the best job for him, is a way for him to keep supplying his hate. Robert DeNiro really did capture Bickle though, he has proven his tremendous acting abilities over the years; from a messed up vet, an ex-CIA agent and soon-to-be father-in-law to the young Vito Corleone (in which he won an Academy Award).
The film opens with the young DeNiro getting the job as a NYC nighttime cab driver. As we are introduced to the character (mainly through his narration) we can sense that something is a bit off with him. Instead of working for money, he tells us that he works to "keep himself busy." Busy from what? He has a hatred for all the prostitutes and pimps that ride in his cab, yet he lives in a constant world of pornography. This may be the reason he fails to fall in love. He is constantly surrounded by beautiful women; one in particular, Betsy (Cybill Shepherd), actually took a liking to him, but after he took her to an adult film, she never saw him again. The entire film shows how living a semi-reclusive lifestyle can affect your behavior and actions. Bickle shows a series of failed attempts at doing everyday tasks; from taking Betsy to a porno flick, brown-nosing a political candidate and eventually creeping him out, to being unusually friendly to a secret service agent who found him susp*cious. Every time we see Bickle fail, he sinks further into this mentally and emotionally unstable estate; eventually buying two suitcases filled with guns and walking around New York with them.
Not only did Martin Scorsese receive critical concern for the R-rated amount of violence in this film, but the 13-year-old, prostitute-playing, Jodi Foster raised a few eyebrows. Apart from playing a whor* she was also subject to intense scenes of violence. When she was interviewed after the film, instead of saying she was upset and traumatized, she said that it was fascinating and entertaining. Eventually being subject to psychological testing to prove that she was not permanently scarred by the role.
Although the film is loosely based on the life of Arthur Bremer, Taxi Driver triggered the delusions of John Hinckley, Jr., the attempted assassin of Ronald Reagan in 1987. Hinckley mimicked the life of Travis Bickle so much that during his trial, his lawyer's defense was showing scenes from the movie.
The biggest controversie in "Taxi Driver," is the ending. I am going to let you decide that yourself but if you have seen it, all I'm going to ask is: do you think it was a fantasy or actuality? Overall, this has been one of my favorite films. It gives us that same madness that is presented by Hitchc*ck. The music is perfect for the mood of the film as it follows Bickle through a world of garbage and smut; his cab acting as his only way to escape. Composer Bernard Hermann, in which the film is dedicated to his memory, has a lone saxophone playing as Bickle travels the sleazy streets.