Taxi Driver (1976)

by George Watches Things


Taxi Driver opens with a man applying for a job. His name is Travis Bickle, he is played incredibly well by Robert DeNiro, and he gets the job that he applies for. And this is how he becomes a taxi driver. He meets, (slightly) stalks, and eventually asks out a girl named Betsy, who works for a Senator who is running for President. He then meets the Senator himself, by complete happen-stance, because he climbs into his cab. The Senator asks him what bothers him the most. After initial hesitation, Bickle answers that someone should clean up the city (New York). He complains of the scum.

Travis is distant. He doesn’t discuss much with cabbies. He spends a lot of time alone in his apartment (the famous “you talkin’ to me?” line came when there was no one else in the room). And he seems somewhat surprised when Betsy walks out of the Swedish porno documentary that he took her to. He reminds me of some tortured soul who opens fire on a university campus.

You are what you habitually do and judgement. Those were the two themes floating around in my head during this movie. The former at the beginning, and the latter at the very end. Everyone has a job. Travis drives taxis, the lady at the porn theater sells candy, Betsy does things for the Senator’s campaign. But Travis is different than the other two examples I give. If he’s not driving, he’s in his apartment, alone. That what this job gives to him. A chance to get out.

This is a film that explores it’s characters. There is a plot, and it’s interesting (I didn’t realize that almost two hours went by while watching), but it’s made by it’s very real characters. I recently saw “There Will Be Blood,” the 2007 self-proclaimed “epic.” That’s a movie that made itself too big for it’s characters, even though it has big characters. It felt like there was plot already built, and the characters were just dropped into it. Taxi Driver doesn’t give you that feel.

Two paragraphs ago (yes, it’s been that long), I mentioned judgement. Characters in this movie judge Travis, and so do I. I thought he was going to do something very, very wrong. I thought that he would actually clean up some of the “scum.” And that’s what he does, but instead of being scorned (or killed), as I expected, he is applauded for it. Earlier in the film, he had lied to his parents about his occupation, or had he? Did he really mean to be a hero? Is he still even alive (I was confused for a second)? See it and find out for yourself.

(Taxi Driver is NOT available on Netflix Instant, but you can rent it from iTunes as I did for $2.99.)