Review: Casablanca (1942)

To see list – no.10


Yes, I’ve finally watched Casablanca and I felt like I reached another milestone. Saying that the film is famous is just an understatement. Casablanca is undoubtedly one of the most loved, influential and timeless pictures in the history of cinema. Yes, even 75 years later, this classic continues to mesmerize the audiences with its captivating story and compelling characters.

Filmed and set during WWII, Casablanca focuses on Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), an American expatriate who owns a club in the city of Casablanca, then in French Morocco. He is introduced as a powerful, rich and cynical man who only cares about his own good. Everything changes though when Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) walks into his club. Rick’s past, as well as his well-hidden emotional nature, start to unfold and the events that follow lead him to a great dilemma.

Do you know anyone, at least half-interested in cinema who has never heard of Casablanca? Probably not. Now, there is reason why a film so old is still famous today and frequently appears in “top 10 films of all time” lists. So what distinguishes Casablanca from its contemporaries? I would say its story. The characters seem to have been taken out of an ancient Greek tragedy as they find themselves caught between love, duty and honour. The plot and pace are excellent, especially the way the timeline unfolds raising questions and then revealing the answers one at a time while the action is building and the climax is drawing closer. A love triangle or a love story with sad (or even bittersweet) ending wasn’t something you saw much in films back then. Casablanca was bold, affecting and included characters much more realistic and relatable than the conventional of Hollywood’s golden age.

Of course one could by no means ignore the superb acting. Humphrey Bogart is outstanding as the overwhelming Rick Blaine, indifferent on the outside, but a romantic sentimentalist on the other. Ingrid Bergman also shines in what is probably her most famous performance. She did a remarkably good job considering that she was still learning English. The supporting cast is solid, nothing less expected from actors like Paul Henreid, Claude Rains and Peter Lorre. The surprising fact is that nobody had any great expectations about the film. The story is an adaptation of a not so successful play, the production was rushed and used limited budget due to the war and both Bogart and Bergman tried to get out of the film at some point. Well, they couldn’t be more wrong. Surprisingly, everything worked perfectly for Casablanca and the result continues to inspire actors and film makers to this day.