Taxi Driver

Taxi Driver ★★★★★

94

TAXI DRIVER is easily one of the scariest and most thoroughly suspenseful movies I could name: few things are as downright unsettling as being forced to identify with an unstable character. Travis' internal instability is portrayed so perfectly, partly thanks to the story structure, where each scene delves further into his descent into hypermasculinity, and partly because we simply do not know the reason for his mental instability. In fact, we are left uncertain about most of his background, being introduced to this character who comes out of the void, literally giving his character and the entire movie a very shaky foundation. And that really pays off, for this movie transports you into a world where he does nothing when a man rages and promises to kill his wife, a world where he could use an automatic pop-out-of-your-sleeve gun for an assassination, but for some reason opts to clumsily get a gun out of an inside pocket.The screenplay choice to inform the viewer about him being a veteran is ingenious, because this movie would have been seen by an entire generation of war veterans who are possibly a little unstable. In a way, the only thing we do learn about Travis' past is a common denominator with the target audience. And even if that sole similarity won't make Travis wholly identifiable, it might make him seem just a little more down-to-earth and real.

You know when a movie is really good 30% into the runtime and you are kind of worrying that it might stumble and get off track? Well, just over half an hour into TAXI DRIVER, the suspense was already unbearable, and I was sure that it would stumble eventually. You know when a movie scene is so intense and unsettling that you start doing weird things while watching: breathing arrhythmically, shaking (both internally and physically), with a constant feeling that you are about to completely explode? That's how I felt early on in the movie. And I still felt that way the next scene, and the next scene, and the next scene... worrying that it would stop - that TAXI DRIVER will stumble, but it did not. That feeling just got worse over its entire runtime, and I am not exaggerating when I say that there was not a single scene where I was not internally shaking. I had to cover my eyes several times because the movie is so unbearably scary and intense. (Not at particularly violent scenes, but actually just at some dialogue scenes etc. De Niro's minimalistic acting is enough to create a complete sense of instability.)

Each new scene in a way added another layer of impossible tension, which just builds up, and up, and up - until the movie's operatic finale, which is just pitch-perfect. Everything - the entire build-up - explodes at that point, proving TAXI DRIVER to be an ingeniously constructed movie. Genuinely one of the very best ever made. Herrmann's jazz score is terrific, and perfectly fits the movie's tone. It may be his best score - but then again that is the guy who made VERTIGO's score, so it may not.

Several hours after I finished this movie, I started watching this YouTube video where Tarantino reviews the movie. Immediately, the aforementioned feeling came back again, I was already shaking again, breathing like a maniac, and no more than 45 seconds (no joke) into the video I had to stop watching it. I may be completely traumatised by TAXI DRIVER, but it is the best traumatisation imaginable.

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