REVIEW: “Casablanca”

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How is it that I have been movie blogging in some fashion for over three years yet I’ve never reviewed my favorite movie of all time? Well it’s time to remedy that. That opening line probably spoils any mystery about my final score, but that’s perfectly okay. To me “Casablanca” is a perfect film and I owe a lot to it for broadening my appreciation for classic cinema and for introducing me to my favorite actor of all time – Humphrey Bogart.

The world of cinema has long regarded “Casablanca” as a true classic. Often times I rebel against that kind of establishment recognition but in some cases they get it right. This is one of those instances. “Casablanca” is a classic in every sense of the word. Whether your talking about the flawless direction from Hungarian born Michael Curtiz, the brilliant screenplay brought together by a number of people including brothers Julius and Philip Epstein, Casey Robinson, and Howard Koch, or the spectacular cast led by the cool confident Bogart and the stunningly beautiful Ingrid Bergman. “Casablanca” not only has all of the ingredients for a true classic, but it doesn’t waste any of them.

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Warner Brothers didn’t have very high expectations for the film. In fact it was rushed through to its release in order to capitalize on the North African campaign of World War 2. The initial response was lukewarm but the film would quickly prove itself and ended up winning three Oscars including Best Picture. Over the years the appreciation for the film has only grown and with good reason. It truly is something special. Romance, patriotism, humor, suspense – “Casablanca” has it all.

Bogart leads the way as the complex Rick Blaine. He owns and runs Rick’s Café Américain, a popular nightclub in 1941 Vichy controlled Casablanca. He keeps his business flourishing during a tumultuous wartime by being neutral and “sticking his neck out for nobody”. He’s surrounded by a great assortment of supporting characters, many played by some of Hollywood’s best at the time. Claude Rains received an Oscar nomination for his turn as a corrupt Vichy Captain with a special interest in Rick. The great Sydney Greenstreet plays a rival club owner. Consummate character actor Peter Lorre plays a crook who is in way over his head. And there’s Dooley Wilson as Rick’s loyal friend and club piano player Sam. Fun fact – Dooley was a drummer and didn’t know how to play the piano at all. Yet his character’s singing and playing of “As Time Goes By” is unforgettable.

But Rick’s well controlled life takes a dramatic turn when the former love of his life Ilsa (Bergman) shows up at his club. Ilsa’s husband Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid), a well known Czech resistance leader and fugitive from the Nazis, is with her. They seek Rick’s help to get out of the country before the Nazi Major Strasser (Conrad Veidt) catches up to them. Rick is reluctant due to the bitterness of having his heart broken and his desire to maintain his establishment’s neutrality. Does he risk it all for the woman he once loved?

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“Casablanca” captures and utilizes so many things well. There’s a high level of suspense. There’s a small touch of humor. There is a great realization of wartime tensions. And right in the middle of it all is what may be the best romance in cinema history. Bogie and Bergman have a sizzling chemistry and the looming threats and high stakes all around them adds such a pop to their relationship. Bogie is a hurt man hiding behind a convincing facade of tough coolness. Bergman is brave but torn and she was never more beautiful than in “Casablanca”. It’s impossible not to be completely absorbed in these two and the intense circumstances surrounding them.

There isn’t a bad performance in “Casablanca”. There isn’t a wasted line or wasted shot. There’s never a down moment. It’s pacing its absolutely perfect. The camera work and stage design is impeccable. The romance simmers. The story is smart and fluid. I could go on and on. As I said, “Casablanca” is rightly called a classic. It accomplishes so much that modern movies with their massive budgets and greater technologies seldom lay hold of. It’s beautiful storytelling with one memorable line after another and a Bogart performance that forever etched his name in film history. It’s my favorite movie and I can never see it enough.

VERDICT – 5 STARS

5 STARSs

5STAR K&M

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31 thoughts on “REVIEW: “Casablanca”

    • I probably watch it a couple of times a year AT LEAST! I never get tired of it. Bogart exemplifies cool and has anyone matched Bergman’s beauty in this picture? I dunno!

      • Like I say, man. I’m gonna have to rewatch it. It’s been years since I watched a Bogie movie. Might as well do the triple bill of this, The Big Sleep and The Maltese Falcon. As an added extra, I might just throw in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Can’t go wrong with any of them.

      • Bogie had so many good ones many of which get forgotten among his bigger classics. Have you seen The Petrified Forest, High Sierra, The Enforcer, Sahara, Black Legion, or The Two Mrs. Carrolls? This are just a few of his that I would highly recommend.

  1. Wonderful review of this one Keith. Casablanca gets it right on so many levels. Would you mind if I popped a link to this one on my blog as part of my series on favourite movies and why we love them?

    • Fantastic! I always encourage a rewatch of this film. Such drama, atmosphere, great performances, and memorable moments. I love it.

      Thanks for reading and commenting. As I was saying to Mark, I know classic movies aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I have wanted to do this for sometime. Glad some folks are enjoying it.

  2. One of my favorites! And your review definitely does it justice. Nice job! I fell even more in love with it when I saw it on the big screen – I forgot how funny it is!

    • Thanks! I love it when other people share my enthusiasm for this movie. And you’re right. There is definitely some good humor in it. It’s such a great mix of so many things.

  3. I agree with everything you said about the film. Casablanca is perfection and every actor is sublime. Claude Raines is one of those actors who finds a part, fills it with more personality than it had to start with, and practically steals the movie…I did say practically. Bogart and Bergman dominate the film with a chemistry that is had to imagine. There are so many memorable scenes that stick to you and make you want to experience it over and over again. I’ve not done a top ten list of my favorite films, I suspect this would be number three if I got started. It was my parents favorite film and the source of my name. This is a fun week so far Keith. Looking forward to what is next.

    • Oh my gosh, consider me jealous. I would love to see Casablanca on the big screen. Unfortunately I haven’t been given the opportunity yet but if it comes, I promise you I’m watching. 🙂

  4. Nice review! Casablanca is rightly called a classic for sure. The last couple times I’ve watched it I’ve always been surprised by the friendship between Rick and Louis, it gets to me even more than the main romance plot. The film makes a big deal over whether Rick is going to reform or not, but Louis’ is more in the background so you don’t see it coming as much. It’s always a surprise to me when he helps them out; theirs truly is a beautiful friendship.

    • Great observations. Louis is one of the real treats of the movie, isn’t he? Rains is just brilliant and he’s really a key ingredient to the picture. Glad you love it too. Thanks for the comments.

  5. WOW, you never reviewed this before Keith?? Somehow I thought you had posted this on your Valhalla series. Well it’s about time then and I agree w/ the 5/5 rating. I saw this maybe 3 yrs ago as part of the TCM re-release thing and I’m so glad I did! I was so engrossed on the story, and loved every minute of it. The cast is superb, Bogart & Bergman are fabulous of course, but Claude Rains is particularly memorable as well.

    • It was the very first Valhalla introduction. I had done a very short “review” on my first site but it never did the movie justice. This is the first time I actually did a full one. Nuts, right?

  6. Pingback: YOUR VOICES: On movie survival during a cataclysm… | Keith & the Movies

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