Unlike most films, you really have to be aware of some of the context behind Taxi to appreciate it for what it is. Iranian director, Jafar Panahi, was arrested by the Iranian government in 2010 for making a film considered anti-authoritarian by the governing powers. Thrown in jail, Panahi’s greatest punishment was that he was barred from making films. Thus, once you appreciate the constraints and risk he is taking, Taxi becomes a lot more than someone driving a taxi with some passengers who appear to be some of the most colourful characters in Tehran.
The first half of the film is nicely light-hearted that is clever enough to enthuse discourse into its humour. Shot as an almost hidden camera piece, Panahi documents all the drama that takes place in his cab as he transports character after character. Panahi plays himself, with some people recognising him for who he is. The second half of the film detracts from its lighter tone and directs its focus upon the struggles of being a filmmaker in Iran and freedom of speech, which coincides with Panahi’s paranoia that he is being followed.
Panahi appears as an affable lead but lacks character traits and nuances to lift the comedy to another notch. Some of the scenarios appear a bit over the top and it can feel a bit farcical now and again when the majority of the film is a bit dry. With context in mind, Taxi is a bit of a feat and a good lesson in filmmaking under dire constraints.