Review of 'Casablanca '

casablanca.jpg It is the second world war and in Casablanca, Morroco, an French outpost where those fleeing the Nazis can escape Europe to find refuge in the Americas, cool customer Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) runs the popular “Rick's Café Américain”, central to this flow of people. When a face from the past in the form of Ilsa lund (Ingrid Bergman) shows up in the café looking for help Rick's hard exterior begins to crumble as we learn of his earlier exploits in the resistance. Rick has managed to put this aside and make a new life for himself in Casablanca by staying out of politics but this life is now threatened. Ilsa is married to Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid), a famous escapee from a German occupation camp and new face of the resistance in Europe. Attracted to each other again now they have been reunited Ilsa and Rick begin to form plans to leave Victor behind and chase the life they never had…but with the Gestapo in the form of Major Heinrich Strasser (Conrad Veidt) and the somewhat more ambivalent chief of police Captain Louis Renault (Claude Rains) watching their every move things may not work out the way they expect.

A classic of cinema that often hits the “best of all time” lists, Casablanca is full of an ambience and elegance long since vanished from the big screen. Here is Humphrey Bogart at his best - cool, and suave - drawing the viewer in any time he is on the screen. Every actor draws us in with the multitude of extreme close ups, hamming it up to the camera yet somehow it works very well. I find two of my favourite characters, besides Bogart, is the chief of police, played by Claud Rains who is so ambivalent we are never quite sure where he stands until the final minutes of the piece, and the wonderful voice of Dooley Wilson (though his role is perhaps more than a bit of racial stereotyping). There is also a delightful short appearance by the weaselly Ugarte played by Peter Lorre who is a tragic victim of Rick's ambivalence.

This is not a perfect film. Most of Casablanca is obviously filmed on sets but somehow this does not matter, the characters here are what draws our eye with the historical drama unfolding around them. This is not a big action film, this is melodrama at it's best as we are riveted to the screen wondering what will happen next.

A period picture that captures the essence of classic Hollywood film making. Still a joy to watch after all these years with the multitude of quotable lines (“here's looking at you kid”, “…of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine”, “I have a feeling this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship…” and many more).

Rating: “I have absolutely no complaints”

Review Date: 2020-03-15

Directed by: Michael Curtiz

Studio: Warner Bros.

Year: 1942

Length: 102 minutes

Genre: Melodrama