The endlessly quotable Casablanca stars Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman as star-crossed lovers in the midst of the Second World War. Rick (Bogart) is an American ex-pat with a thriving lounge bar in Casablanca, Morocco, where many wealthy Europeans have fled to escape the Nazis and where corrupt officials gather to profiteer off wartime panic. Aloof and mysterious but influential with local police, Rick helps his patrons with gaining safe passage to America while he also broods and drinks alone. When Rick’s former lover Ilsa (Bergman) and her husband Victor (Paul Henreid), a Czech Resistance leader, come to Casablanca and ask for his help, Rick is confronted with his painful past and a difficult decision regarding the future of Ilsa, himself, and the war.
It’s hard to say anything new about this beloved, timeless, classic film with its romantic tale, glamourous cast and indelible music. Bogart, with his droopy, hangdog expression, is the perfectly world-weary cynic with a heart of gold who is transformed by the presence of the love of his life. Bergman, with her delicate, angelic features deliberately shot in soft focus throughout the movie, is great as the conflicted but dignified damsel-in-distress. Henreid is also excellent as Ilsa’s noble husband whom Rick cannot truly bring himself to dislike but respects instead. Victor also invokes powerful feelings of patriotism in the fight against the Nazis, providing a wider scope to the film’s main love story. Side characters provide a lot of fun and drama as well, especially the seedy and unctuous Ugarte (Peter Lorre), who Rick detests, and Capt. Renault (Claude Rains), who provides comic relief and proves to be an unexpected ally against German forces. Lastly, sidelined due to the racially oppressive era of the film’s production is Sam (Dooley Wilson), Rick’s long-time friend and confidant who plays Casablanca’s unforgettable love song “As Time Goes By” for Ilsa.
A love story for the ages, Casablanca sits firmly in black-and-white film history and in pop culture vernacular and has most recently influenced the award-winning musical La La Land as a shining icon of Hollywood romance.
Ratings (out of 5):
Overall Average: 4.4