"I'm not Bertrand Russell. Well what do ya want. I'm a cabbie you know." - WizardOne would think that a moralistic misanthrope would not be well-suited to life as a taxi driver; especially not on a night shift in a big city where there are so many triggers. I'm not sure whether moralist or misanthrope are completely accurate descriptions for Travis Bickle, but I do feel it captures something about the character.
Immediately, through narration and fascinating cinematography, I was drawn into the isolation and loneliness of Travis Bickle. The city was alive, yet he was detached. He carted people around whom he despised, took fares that a sane person would turn down for risk to personal safety. While other cabbies prompted him to buy a gun to protect himself, he bought one after a fare insinuated what it would do to a woman's pussy.
The film reminded me in many ways of The King Of Comedy, especially that the main character was driven by his own delusions. De Niro was perfect for the role. Reading up on the film after, the scenes where he nailed aspects of portraying the delusions of the main character were not scripted. Don't know how many takes they did, but the ones there were sublime. The scene in the restaurant trying to justify why the women he was semi-stalking should go out with him was just perfect.
If there's one issue I have with the film, it was the ambiguity of the final act. Why was it that he was going to kill the presidential candidate? Was the ending real or a delusion? Perhaps these questions are better not answered, or perhaps a 2nd viewing is warranted (a 2nd viewing is most definitely on the cards anyway). It was fascinating that Bickle was such an antihero that his effort to rescue a child prostitute is not heroic in the slightest, let alone fully appreciate just what the consequences of his actions were. It was brutal, surreal, and almost sociopathic. But as I think the point was, we were looking at the situation through the eyes of Travis Bickle, as the contrast with the media reaction demonstrated. What a film!