Here’s a review I wrote a few years ago, it’s my explanation for why Casablanca is my favorite movie of all-time, and it also helps explain why I write and read romance. Casablanca is more than a love story set in WWII, it is a character study, the story of a wounded, hardened, cynical man who after going through the motions for years, finds what it means to love again.
Casablanca: A Film Review
Casablanca (1942) is the perfect movie. It’s an amazing blend of different genres and styles that work together, instead of antagonizing each other. In less than two hours, Casablanca features the stylish shadows and contrasts between dark and bright of a film noir, the suspense of a thriller, the raw emotion of a tearjerker, the backdrop of war, and a love story that speaks to each of us.
Casablanca does all this with a tightly written, hilarious script where each line of dialogue is a memorable gem. Seriously, this has to be the most quotable movie ever made. Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine. We’ll always have Paris. What nationality are you? I’m a drunkard. I’m shocked, shocked, to see gambling going on in this establishment. Your winnings, sir. Major Strasser has been shot, round up the usual suspects. Here’s looking at you, kid. These are only a handful of the timeless lines that have been quoted, parodied, beloved, and copied over the decades.
However, what makes Casablanca work isn’t just the brilliant writing, or the classic story, but the perfect acting. Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine is in a class by himself. The charisma, the suppressed rage, the tough guy persona that covers a vulnerable heart, the cynical and sarcastic way he delivers the lines. Bogart’s performance as Rick Blaine is my favorite of any actor in any movie, and I have watched a lot of movies. He simply embodies the tortured hero. He’s not perfect. He’s had to break the law to survive. He’s become this cynical empty shell, and yet by the end of the movie, he’s found it in his heart to be a human being again. To see through the pain, to re-learn what it is to love, and to embrace that love, and be strong enough to know when to let it go. Rick Blaine’s character arc is heartbreaking, moving, and wonderfully portrayed by Bogart. Bogart would go on to deliver other acclaimed performances, including the one he won an Academy Award for (a great movie called The African Queen), but I think this character and this performance is his quintessential one. It’s the one that just embodies all of his work, and goes beyond the realm of typically well-received performances into a another stratosphere: that of a classic, timeless icon.
Not to be outdone, Ingrid Bergman smolders as the beautiful, elegant, mysterious Ilsa. Her acting is restrained, but effective. She can convey so much with a single glance, she doesn’t need to dig into a bag of tricks. The supporting actors also make an invaluable contribution to the film. The likes of Claude Rains, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, Conrad Veidt, all immensely talented character actors, add an authenticity and electricity to the film that can’t be duplicated.
The film’s sole weakness may perhaps be the relatively stiff performance of Paul Henreid, who was much better in the Bette Davis classic, Now Voyager. Henreid is not entirely at fault, since his character is quite underdeveloped compared to the characters in the film. Lazlo is little more than a plot device, the obstacle that keeps Bogart and Bergman apart from each other. This is a small quibble, however. Casablanca is a timeless masterpiece. It is also my personal favorite movie of all-time.