What can be said about this film that hasn't been said already? As with all great films, Taxi Driver, arguably Scorsese's best work, is a multifaceted masterpiece, stuffed to the brim with philosophical concepts despite a minimalist plot and relatively short run-time. It's a gutsy piece too, both in terms of casting and topic, areas where the film veers into uncomfortable and challenging territory. The movie clearly has something to say about Vietnam, albeit in a more nuanced fashion than such a clear commentary as Apocalypse Now, which came three years later. Taxi Driver seems to be an urban representation of the chaos and moral upheaval after America's defeat and ideological failure in that war. Scorsese beautifully creates and narrates this disorder onto New York City, even as he clearly lays out an allusion to the state of the nation. Taxi Driver is also about a man, a veteran, struggling to come to terms with a city and country whose morality seems integrally compromised and illogical. There's a narrative here both for the man representing the tradition of the nation while also serving as a representative for a whole generation of traumatized young men who returned to a nation that had changed since they left, a nation that had become hostile to the very thing they fought for. At the same time, it's also a movie about the fundamental contrast really beginning to emerge in the 60's and 70's, that of the traditional white Christian background butting up against an increasingly diverse counterculture of ethnicity, religion and philosophical beliefs, all of which constitute the "ghetto" so often the target of white crusaders even today. DeNiro's character is at the crossroads here, a man who reviles this counterculture while also struggling to escape his own demons and understand Iris's (Jodie Foster) involvement in the very thing he despises. There's also an aspect of male fantasy here. DeNiro is a traditional white privileged male, in certain senses of the term. He often expects attention and understanding, despite his own neurotic and often delusional actions. He places expectations on Cybill Shepherd's Betsy, around whom he constructs a fantasy that becomes a point of obsession for him. He dreams of being a vigilante hero, endlessly toying with his weapons as a means of propping up his fragile masculinity. The entire sequence detailing his weapons is an acknowledgment of the American obsession with guns, both at home and in our wars abroad, with Scorsese not even needing to fire the weapons to show the absurdity of the whole act. DeNiro's character hopes to find purpose in violence and aggression while also struggling to find meaning in the traditional male 40 hour capitalist work week and daily grind. He considers himself to be a good guy and believes that his good nature entitles him to certain things. Scorsese is famous for his violence but Taxi Driver may be his most thoughtful film on the process. DeNiro spends an incredible amount of time imagining his role, daydreaming essentially and then crafting a swaggering persona built around his fantasy. Taxi Driver is also a deeply economic film, one of the early films to poke and prod at the supposed success of capitalistic, urban ideals. The films presents people who society expects to be happy and well adjusted. DeNiro's Travis, Betsy and Iris are all people who seem to have social roles laid out for them. Betsy adheres, DeNiro bounces back and forth while Iris bucks the system entirely. None of the characters are truly happy and Scorsese is one of the first in film to call attention to the decay of the "American Dream" and its subsequent promises. He also presents the desperation of people who clearly are at the end of their rope economically. For a film that took top prize at Cannes, Taxi Driver spends precious little time lingering on the lives of the white upper class, choosing instead to acknowledge that large sectors of the country simply were not able to advance socially or economically, a trend which continues to exasperate itself today. There's clearly a strong, prescient and complex examination of the increasing sexualization both of the female form and the increasingly young ages at which it occurs. This critical breakdown was eerily predictive, as we see younger and younger women featured in the fashion and movie industry as men demand more nubile objects of desire. Finally, there's a discussion here on mental illness, not in the more obvious sense detailed in later films more focused on the subject but in broader terms, the general insanity that results from urban crowding and decay, an issue that reflects itself statistically in the increased cases of mental illness in packed city environments. All of this exceptional undertones are tied together in a technically perfect film, where Scorsese uses a number of techniques to brilliant effect. There are the semi-single take shots, a sort of ancestor of the complex long takes filmmakers such as the modern visionary, Alejandro Iñárritu, have used to great critical acclaim. There is the incredible top down final action shot, which is a magnificent portrayal of the carnage DeNiro unleashes. Scorsese uses a diverse and groundbreaking toolbox here and he only helps himself with a truly exceptional cast. DeNiro sets the precedent for later method actors (Bale, Leto, McConaughey and others), completely transforming himself, losing weight and changing hairstyles while adapting seamlessly into the delusional gun carrier his character becomes. DeNiro perfectly portrays the obsession, the neurotic behavior and the social awkwardness without even uttering a single word. It's an incredible performance filled with world class gravitas. Almost equally impressive is Foster, a fantastically bold casting that also served as inspiration for other films (notably, The Professional and Natalie Portman's character). And Foster delivers despite limited screentime (not unlike a later film of hers where Anthony Hopkins pulled the same trick), transforming into a street savvy but ultimately beguiled young preteen stuck in a life she can't walk away from. It's moving and her brief moments show a poise few child actors have ever been able to bring to the table. Scorsese's brilliance in casting her cannot be overstated. Shepherd and an unrecognizable Keitel round out the primary cast and each shines in their limited roles. DeNiro's arc as the Taxi Driver is so perfect here. He wallows in his delusion until the very end but eventually comes to a semblance of peace, with Scorsese making the wise choice to have DeNiro part ways for good with Sybill's Betsy in a powerful closer to a powerful film. In the end, DeNiro opts (albeit reluctantly) for a last act of sacrifice on behalf of the young female Iris, choosing the relatively inglorious act of killing street gangsters as opposed to the public political and/or romantic killing he had in mind (Scorsese opts to leave much of that to the imagination of the viewer). This results not in DeNiro getting the girl or gaining a heroes reward from Iris's estranged parents but instead puts him right back in a cab with friends who barely seem to remember his act, choosing to leave DeNiro's ultimate fate somewhat unknown. In fact, Iris's story doesn't get a true conclusion either, another piece of artful ambiguity that young directors would do well to heed. Add in a soft jazz soundtrack (a musical style famous for its lack of resolution) and an ending that is part ambiguous, part curtain closer and you have yourself one of the greatest films of all time. In a world where minimalist film-making has become so trendy and neo-noir has become so common, it is impossible not to recognize Taxi Driver for its importance as an original inspiration to film, art and culture. A short list of great movies that directly utilized aspects of the film includes incredible works such as The Mechanic, LA Confidential, Fight Club, The Dark Knight, Blade Runner, The Guest, God Bless America, Something About Mary, The Professional and even literary works such as Watchmen, Sin City and V For Vendetta, with Watchmen's Rorschach in particular bearing eerie resemblance to DeNiro's Travis Bickle. It's an incredible list and those are just a few highlights. Taxi Driver deserves its place in the hall of incredible film and it deserves your viewing time again and time again.