Here we go; I hold the controversial opinion that Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver is ridiculously over rated and really quite a boring film. Taxi Driver is commonly thought of as one of the greatest films of all time but its not something I agree with. I recently got round to watching Drive starring Ryan Gosling and I couldn’t help but notice a few similarities between the two.
Both films centre on a man who’s job revolves around driving: Taxi Driver‘s Travis Bickle is a former marine who served in Vietnam but comes back to New York and takes up a job as a taxi driver, hence the name of the film; Drive‘s Driver, portrayed by Gosling, is a movie stunt double who moonlights as a driver in the criminal underworld. While both characters come from different backgrounds and are of different mental stabilities they are both loners at heart and form a relationship with a woman in the film.
For a large majority of both films not a lot actually happens. The first half of Taxi Driver and Drive both try to build character with not much action. When I was watching Taxi Driver I thought that it was at its best when it was doing this, we were following Travis around on his various journeys getting to know the man behind the wheel before the much anticipated shoot out at the end. Drive introduces us to the Driver’s world straight away and for the first half an hour there is very little dialogue but the audience still get a sense of character. Because of the lack of action at the beginning of both films they rely on the character and the actors’ portrayal of their characters and fortunately this works well for both films; Ryan Gosling had a great year in 2011 and Drive is a fantastic performance of his, while Robert De Niro is flawless as Travis Bickle.
So up to the halfway point both films are very similar and then something happens which, for me, makes Drive a much better film than Taxi Driver. About halfway through Taxi Driver (maybe later but I haven’t seen it for a while so I forget) loses all sense of direction and seems to have no idea where it is going. Suddenly, Travis Bickle outrightly becomes the psychopath he is remembered for but I feel as though this comes from nowhere. Taxi Driver forgets its narrative arc and throws its plot out of the window in my opinion.
Drive steps it up a gear as it enters its final act; the action feels real, the Driver’s motivation feels real. The whole film makes sense in terms of its narrative. In the beginning Drive sets off on its travels and, at the end, reaches its destination, the same can’t be said for Taxi Driver. Gosling’s Driver’s motivations are obvious and relatable, his journey is a complete arc and his actions are emotionally fuelled. Drive is a blood pumping film; the action is well spaced throughout the film and at times catches the audience off guard, tricking the audience into thinking they will see one thing but they see another.
In my opinion, Drive and Taxi Driver are similar films and anyone that has seen both of them can notice why similarities may be drawn. I do believe that Drive is a much better film to watch and be entertained by. Where Taxi Driver offers a depiction of breakdown of society or mental state, Drive sticks to filmic conventions and offers up an enjoyable treat which does not become boring by any stretch of the imagination.
Given the choice, I’d be watching Drive every time.