Taxi Driver (1976) – The Birth of an Anti-hero

Genre: Crime, Drama
Director: Martin Scorsese
Writer: Paul Schrader

Martin Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver” spawn many references in films and TV series. They, most example, were “Drive”, “Nightcrawler”, “You Were Never Really Here“, and even “Mr. Robot“. One other important thing is a reason, other than “Raging Bull”, why I love Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro. For Scorsese, De Niro is an asset yet close friends in the era of the 90s started from “Mean Streets” and the upcoming movie, “The Irishman”. Until he switched with Leonardo DiCaprio in the era of the 2000s. Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro were the right combinations to illustrate gangster or mafia movies. With his role as a taxi driver, De Niro as Travis Bickle took us around the streets of New York at night. A relatable film for many people, an anti-social view of how it works in cleaning up “rubbish” in New York.

The movie has a unique closeness with Michael Cimino’s “The Deer Hunter”. It’s a movie about De Niro as Michael along with his friends plunging into the Vietnam war. The film explores and examines how the impact to the veteran of the beginning and end of a Vietnam war. On the other hand, “Taxi Driver” tells the story of Travis Bickle as a former Vietnam war marine. This theory is very interesting after I found it on Reddit and it feels like it makes sense. But, it’s just a theory, a movie theory. Well, he spent his nights watching porn in a cinema. He did it because he always had insomnia every night he would spend time alone. Night after night passed, he was like an autopilot. The same thing keeps happening without any goal.

In order to cure his sense of boredom, he decided to become a taxi driver as income from his life. He’s got a lot of unique customers as long as he goes around the streets of the Bronx to Harlem. Every now and then, he spends his time gathering with other taxi drivers. Unfortunately, his loneliness still appears. Travis’s view was more on a beautiful woman named Betsy (Cybill Shepherd). He works under the auspices of a Senator Charles Palantine (Leonard Harris). Travis invited Betsy to just drink coffee outside, initially it went quite smoothly. Until one day, Travis made a mistake, make Betsy hate him so much.

After a deep depression of love problems and worsening loneliness, Travis became empty inside. He went through the night just by seeing “rubbish” walk on the streets of the city. He had the idea to clean up the “rubbish” by starting to introduce himself to Iris (Jodie Foster). Iris is underage prostitution. From here, Travis tried to distance her into the world of prostitutes until his motivation appeared to save her. Starting from meeting Palantine and giving a little opinion about the problem in New York City, he finally jumped into the final act. His last mission as an anti-hero.

“Taxi Driver” is not a film about a hero. However, this film explores the study of Travis Bickle’s character. Scorsese opened the scene with a taxi car passing behind billowing smoke. In addition, Bernard Herrmann’s score makes the feel throughout the film like a full of gloom movie with emptiness and fear. More precisely, I prefer to call this a psychological horror movie but it feels like a taboo movie.

Travis is a vigilante, an anti-hero on his mission to clean up the “rubbish” around him. For Travis, this “rubbish” is addicts, prostitutes, pimps, criminals, and other bad things. Travis is a very, very complex character even for a character which is difficult to explain. He seems to have a lot of things in his mind or a lot of personality in himself. He sometimes acted as a hero and even the enemy inside him was very difficult to beat.

Travis Bickle is a character we often encounter in society. However, their existence is always in the shadows or maybe we have felt how Travis feels. I don’t know how many times we have seen other people as NPCs or unbelievable governments. Corruption is everywhere, problems are everywhere, and why are they still hanging around? Same with Travis’s view, not much different from that. Travis wants a change, a change where we also want it. Besides spending a lot of time in porn theaters, he hates the practice of street prostitution.

A bit of a contradiction for Travis’s character but somehow, it feels like we are all the same. Watch porn but don’t accept the existence of pedophilia, child predators, child molester, sexual harassment. I mean, I made invalid points here. Personally, Travis is in the zone, a zone where he hates so much but would never stop such a person from love to watching porn.

Travis is a very mysterious character. At first, we learned that Travis had agreed to Palantine’s decision as president. He had criticized what happened in New York City. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to understand each other. The scene when Travis runs his last mission by shaving his hair into a Mohawk is very ambiguous. We will never know what’s behind Travis’s jacket. Actually, what does he want to spend? Will he say congratulations? Will he do the assassination? After that, we only knew Travis drank beer in his apartment while acting as a cowboy character.

This Martin Scorsese masterpiece doesn’t have many action scenes and never expect it if you will get it in this film. The movie combines elements of psychology, thriller, and horror. This is also a film that highlights Jodie Foster’s name when he was 14 years old. His role as a prostitute gets an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Harvey Keitel as Sport produced great results in this film as an antagonist. Robert De Niro gave one of the best performances along with “Raging Bull”. De Niro was able to realize such a very complicated figure of Travis Bickle. This is a complex character. In fact, two worlds separating Travis and the passenger seat in the taxi was interesting. He never faced back unless he saw the passenger through the rearview mirror.

The ending is very ambiguous. In fact, it’s sharing a lot similar to “The Deer Hunter” again where Travis put his finger like a gun on his head and pulled the trigger repeatedly. It’s very similar to the Russian roulette scene from the movie as well where he seems to remember back his difficult times in Vietnam. However, this is only a theory but very unique. A lot of people wonder whether the scene at the end of the film is a dream or reality. Did all this just happen in the shadow of Travis’s head?

I thought, this really happened but it was as if only part of Travis’s fantasy. For the first time, he met Betsy again. But when he first looked back, he disappeared. The passenger disappeared. I think Martin Scorsese said that Travis is an often-explodes character. He also said that the last scene really happened.

This Martin Scorsese magnum opus is an ambiguous yet beautiful work whether it’s been discussed millions of times. “Taxi Driver” explores a strong character about a mysterious charm but very complicated at the time including today. Actors and actresses in this film provide great performances from Jodie Foster, Robert De Niro, Cybill Shepherd, and Harvey Keitel. Romance is not a strong element apart, it’s displayed with not too much. Both of them created strong chemistry between characters. Apparently, this film doesn’t just pass. But, it’s creating a lot of inspiration and the same theme about solitude and anti-social. Fantasy and reality are combined into one. One of Scorsese’s works that still haunts up to now but leaves thousands of questions including the ending itself.