There is always a danger with a “classic” that it won’t live up to the hype. Luckily, there was no such danger with Casablanca which tells a perfect, quiet and unassuming war-time story (made more poignant by being shot and released during the war) which has a great, complex and dramatic story and one of the all-time great screen-heroes.
That hero is of course Humphrey Bogart’s Rick Blaine. To great credit of the writing, Bogart’s Rick is given an amazing foreshadowing, being spoken about in hushed tones and set-up as this man to be feared and revered. When Rick does finally appear, he does not disappoint and he is given all the cynicism and scepticism in the world. As a man just trying to live his life in a war torn and invaded country, Bogart plays him perfectly. He is all at once cool and broken, vulnerable but cold to the core. It is something to be this heroic and barely throw a punch or dispatch a villain in the traditional sense.
Of course, he is just one piece of a far greater story, as Rick finds his bar caught in the middle of a struggle between the Nazis invading Morocco and a famous resistance leader trying to escape their clutches. Add to this a long-lost love returning and you get a love story, a thriller and a fantastic drama. It isn’t a movie full of action scenes or shoot-outs but instead well-acted, tense stand-offs, high drama moments and the genuine development of Rick from a passive observer of world events to being forced to take a side.
Of course, it also helps that there are so many iconic moments. From Sam playing “As Time Goes By…” again, a rousing “anthem-battle” in the middle of the bar and that “beautiful relationship,” there are so many moments already key to popular culture and movie history. Its good to see them in their context and does add to the enjoyment of the film as there is a reason these moments stand-out.
Casablanca isn’t a perfect movie. It has that 1940s feel which means the lighting feels over-done and the acting becomes slightly melodramatic at times. These are small issues with a fantastic movie that truly deserves to be remembered as a classic though.
Overall, Casablanca is a movie classic. Bogart is perfect as Rick, giving a performance worthy of one of the screen’s best heroes. The story is dramatic and well-told, with iconic moments that deserve their place in the “greatest scenes” lists.
Rating – 4.5
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