Here's lookin at you kid.
Casablanca is a 1943 romantic drama film directed by Michael Curtiz and stars Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, and Peter Lorre. The film is consistently mentioned alongside the likes of Citizen Kane and The Godfather as one of the greatest films ever made.
Humphrey Bogart plays Rick Blaine, who owns a fancy nightclub in Casablanca, Africa, the sight where many refugees are attempting to escape into the United States. Rick's ex-lover, Ilsa (Bergman), arrives one day in Casablanca with her husband, Victor Laszlo (Henreid). Laszlo is a rebel being pursued by Germans, and he learns that Rick may have the only means of getting him and Ilsa out of the country. The only trouble is, Rick still has bitter feelings toward Ilsa for abruptly leaving him before.
Part of me finds it rather difficult to discuss a film like Casablanca which holds such a status of being considered one of, if not, the greatest film ever made. My recent viewing of the film was the second time I've seen the film in its entirety. My first viewing evoked an anticlimactic feeling. I satisfied myself by saying, "Okay now I can say I've seen Casablanca" even though sections of the story went over my head. The second time, I had the most important plot-lines under my belt, so now I could focus more on acting and characterization.
The second viewing was quite the enhancement over the first, and I found myself more appreciative of what the film has to offer. It offers a great story and splendid acting, and it has a sweet romance that never grows overly-sentimental.
- Humphrey Bogart's commanding on-screen presence. For a character like Rick Blaine who claims to, "never stick my neck out for anybody" and whose temper seems rather lukewarm, Humphrey Bogart masterfully turns Rick into the focal point in every scene he is in. When nightclub comers get rowdy, Rick puts his foot down and quickly reestablishes control. The Germans try to bend Rick into giving them the letters he obtains which would get Laszlo and Ilsa out of the country, but Rick, in the face of a dangerous enemy, shows he has nerves of steel. Bogart speaks crisp dialogue and smartly avoids emotional outbursts to convey the iron hide of Rick Blaine, who also tries his best to hide his lovelorn sorrows. When Rick is on-screen, he is the man in charge.
- If there was anything I could consider a low, it would be that Rick and Victor don't seem to engage with one another that much throughout the film. I cannot say I can pinpoint one particular scene where Rick and Victor make a memorable connection. Maybe the scene where Victor tries to convince Rick to give him the letters. I know I remember scenes like Rick telling Ilsa, "Here's lookin at you kid" several times, as well as Rick threatening Louis with a gun. Ilsa is almost always present when Rick and Victor interact, but even then, their conversations are little more than "Hi, how are you?" Rick and Victor getting along isn't what you were really expecting to see anyway.
With a quality story, some terrific acting performances, and a romance that never becomes unbearably saccharine, Casablanca fully deserves its status as having one of cinema's greatest romances, as well as being one of the finest cinematic displays in history. Don't give up on it after just one viewing. I know I didn't.
Here you'll find my reviews on just about any film you may have seen. I try to avoid major spoilers as much as possible. I structure my reviews in the following way: