Since Panahi has been banned from making movies he has had to specialise in examining the boundaries of movies as a form of art. He moves somewhere between fact and fiction, documentary and acting, and everything he does takes a political character. In “Taxi” the political issues of current Iran are laid bare especially in the last discussions. Panahi isn’t afraid, or he simply refuses to let it affect his doings.
A scary moment in this film: when Panahi thinks he hears the voice of his interrogator. He gets out of the car and looks skittishly around, as though he's suddenly back in prison, waiting for more torture. It's a succinct PTSD moment that shows how little sights & sounds in an otherwise "normal" day trigger memories of terrible abuse. Horrible to think how many people the US has tortured & left in the same condition.
An obvious, but good, companion piece to Abbas Kiarostami's Ten (both use the same conceit of being shot almost entirely with dashboard cams inside a car), yet not quite as good as that masterpiece. More drama unfolds in this movie, but to less emotional and intellectually provocative effect, which is not to say this film is lacking really. It just does to less affect what has been done before.
Is directing a crime? Panahi takes a look in this wryly funny film. At first I worried it would be derivative of Kiarostami's Ten, but as Taxi progresses, it finds its own route through Tehran's (dangerous—stay in one lane, Jafar!) streets. The arrival of the precocious niece is when things get really good.
Interesting cinema. Intriguing as well. I have visited Iran several times and even shook hands with the director. I love good Iranian cinema. Yet, Taxi is not among my top favourites from Iran, though it was a delight. My reasons for my initial observations are at https://letterboxd.com/jugu/film/taxi-2015/
Second viewing confirms this is a masterpiece; engrossing, surprising, with Kiarostami-esque fact-fiction blurring and layering, but more layers still- like the nod to Kiarostami's Ten, the conditions the film has to be made in, and above all, Panahi's defiant courage.