The Taxi Driver is a gritty, nightmarish modern, classic film that was directed by Martin Scorsese and written by Paul Schrader. The film examines the alienation in the urban society. The film’s director combined the elements of horror, film noir, and the western and urban melodramas’ film genres for making the film (“Taxi Driver - Outdoor Cinema” ). The film was produced a decade after the end of the Vietnam War. The film explores the psychological problems of a lonely cab driver and a war vet, who lashes out in frustration and anger in the world that has alienated him. He is like an explosive time bomb that is about to go off any time.
The film opens with a top night view of the streets of Manhattan. There are the open sewers and manhole covers with steam vapors in cloudy gusts. Neon lights are flashed, and they are reflected on the face of New York cab driver. He is existentially lost foreshadowing the future tone of the film. The Taxi Driver is a shot on the streets of New York City, mostly the night life, with rain, lit by red lights and marquees of porno cinema. The taxi driver complains of headaches believed to be caused due to the stench (Matthews). This manifests the general moral confusion about the libidinous city. It also shows his feelings of frustration, rage and intimidation. The sight and sounds passing by in the taxi windows are the intrusive sources of anxiety and guilt. The decay in the film triggers uneasiness and violence in the city.
The leading character Travis, who is 26, confesses that he cannot sleep at night. He is awake, so he might as well be a night cab driver. He walks into the office of a taxi company. He applies as a driver in that company to drive the taxi during night shifts because he is insomniac. He just got discharged from the Marines after the war in Vietnam. He is Scorsese’s avenging angel that has come to rid the streets of scum and moral decay (Lury). Travis desires an ordinary life, but his naivety prevents him from fulfilling the desire. From this inability, a feeling of powerlessness, anxiety and a guilty conscience spouts. These negative energies are an inner turmoil that Travis cannot get rid of. They grow until he cannot stand them anymore.
The Taxi Driver points out the sense of powerlessness against the corrupt universe. Travis is powerless and lonely on all fronts because he has no purpose in his life. Eventually, when he sets a purpose, it is not meaningful, and it is not for the common goodness. The film successfully addresses the social fear of the post-Vietnam period, during which the people were still apprehensive and afraid. Travis finds the release for this anxiety trying to be a hero. He dreams all days long, gets ready to clean up the mess in the city, and develops a new violent behavior. He targets a politician, at first, showing himself to be delusional (Garwood). Ironically, he ends up as a hero due to a fluke of circumstances.
The movie is concerning an exploration of loneliness. The driver is a representation of an extreme form of the common state of alienation. He is a product of the broadly felt alienation of the lonely man in the post - Vietnam time. He is a reflection of the current events of the early 1970s. The Taxi Driver inspired the copy pasting, most notably the assassination attempt in 1988 aimed at Ronald Reagan by John Hinckley III. Scorsese expects the audience to feel the same.
Scorsese portrays masculinity and male sexuality specifically in The Taxi Driver (Lury). It points at Travis’ dismissal by Betsy as a major set off in his descent into psychosis. Travis perceives Betsy as a form of rescuer from the filth that surrounds him. She is seen as a pure fighter who can help Travis to come back to his real self. Since he is not himself, he is unable to communicate, and, as a result, he is rejected.
The alienation here is displayed by the cultural vocabulary, and Travis cannot speak the common language. This ultimately leads to the point of no return, where he can only self-determine by being violent. Once Betsy rejects him, he stops perceiving her as pure but filthy just like everyone else. His response is to become a redeemer figure trying to save an actual whore Iris. He violently delivers her from prostitution. Though this is misguided, it inadvertently gets Travis what he wants (Matthews).
The difference between Travis and the current generation is that he has the courage to act basing on his heroic fantasies. His success frighteningly suggests that violence may be the only real solution to societal ills. The Taxi Driver reinforces negative stereotypes of the Vietnam veteran. Travis’ choice of violent actions reflects the American decision to go to war. His failed assassination attempt relates to going into war in the wrong time, just like during the Vietnam War. However, he finds triumph by setting Iris free.
Finally, when he sees Betsy, he ignores her because he no longer needs her. Travis is a figure in Scorsese’s treatment of gender relations. He provides a blueprint determined at other characters all of which are informed by a kind of failed masculinity followed by the return of the armed forces from Vietnam (Matthews).
The Taxi Driver gives a compelling performance, and it is fascinating to watch. The Taxi Driver has been acknowledged to have influenced on the Searchers, John Ford’s creation. The movie is about an angry war veteran who is a social outcast.