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Casablanca More at IMDbPro »

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

It gets better as time goes by

Author: James Hitchcock from Tunbridge Wells, England
26 September 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

To mark my 1100th review for IMDb I turn to another of my favourite films. And not just one of mine. Its regular appearance on lists of the greatest films of all time suggest that "Casablanca" is also one of the world's favourite films. It has given the English language more well-known quotations than virtually any other film- "Here's looking at you, kid", "Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship", "Round up the usual suspects", "We'll always have Paris", "Play it again, Sam" (yes, I know that one's a misquote) and "Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine" (also often misquoted, generally as "Of all the bars…..").

Yet at the time it was made, it was just one of many wartime propaganda films made by Hollywood. It was based upon an obscure play which had never been performed professionally. (It still hasn't in America, although it was produced briefly in London's West End in 1991). It starred an actor best known at that date for gangster pictures, and an actress whose early Hollywood films, apart from "Intermezzo", had not been wildly successful. Few would have predicted, therefore, that "Casablanca" would not only win the "Best Picture" Oscar for 1943 but would also go on to enjoy such lasting popularity.

I don't intend to set out the plot, which is already well-known, in detail, but rather to discuss what makes it such a favourite of mine. One feature is what might be called its moral complexity, something it shares with the film noir style of which Humphrey Bogart was such a noted exponent. I would not, however, classify "Casablanca" as noir, largely because it does not, except perhaps in the airport scene at the end, use the sort of expressionistic photography which characterised the genre.

I do not mean that the film is morally ambiguous politically. Its politics are quite clear; the Nazis are evil and the Allied cause is just. (For this reason, I always wish Michael Curtiz had been allowed to use the "Horst Wessel Lied" in the song-duel with "La Marseillaise". The producers, however, refused, on the bizarre grounds that the Nazi anthem was protected by copyright, so Curtiz had to substitute "Die Wacht am Rhein", a 19th–century patriotic song with no Nazi connotations).

The film's ambiguity arises at a personal rather than political level. The only character who is unambiguously heroic is the noble and idealistic Victor. Rick Blaine starts off as a disillusioned cynic, cynical both about personal relationships and about politics, and unwilling to "stick his neck out" for anyone. He has a murky past, operates a gambling operation of dubious legitimacy and, for unexplained reasons, is unable to return to America. Ilsa is somewhat sanitised compared to Lois, the equivalent character in the original play, and explanations are provided for some of her more questionable actions, but the fact remains that she is in love with a man other than her husband, and would be prepared to desert her husband for that man. Louis Renault, the Chief of Police, is quite openly corrupt, accepting bribes to issue the vital "exit visas" which will enable refugees to leave Casablanca; if the refugee in question is an attractive woman he is prepared to accept payment in the form of sexual favours rather than cash.

By the end of the film, however, all three have achieved redemption. Renault, who has no love for the Vichy regime he serves or their German masters, resolves to serve his country's interests rather than his own. Ilsa recognises that her place is by her husband's side and her duty to support him in his struggle. Rick not only recovers his lost political idealism but also, like Ilsa, sacrifices his own personal happiness and puts duty before love. Rick is the only major character who is an American, and can be seen as symbolising America's own journey from neutrality to wholehearted participation in the anti-Fascist struggle. It is significant that the action takes place in early December 1941, in the last few days before Pearl Harbor.

The complexity of these three characters demands acting of a high standard, and Bogart, Bergman and Claude Rains are all excellent. Bogart is particularly good; this is the finest of all his performances that I have seen, better even than "The African Queen" for which he won his only Oscar. (Not having seen Paul Lukas in"Watch on the Rhine" I cannot say whether Bogart deserved to win in 1943). There are several other good performances; those that stand out most come from Sydney Greenstreet as Rick's business rival Ferrari and Conrad Veidt as the main Nazi Major Strasser.

Paul Henreid as Victor is sometimes regarded as the acting "weak link", and he is certainly less than charismatic, but I felt this was necessary to emphasise the contrast between his character and Rick's. Rick may have a dubious past, but Bogart also makes him fascinating and charming enough to win and retain Ilsa's love, even though she is married to a man of great nobility whom she deeply admires. Henreid, by contrast, makes Victor the sort of man who can inspire admiration but who does not perhaps have enough warmth on a personal level to retain the wholehearted love of his wife.

Another notable feature is the musical score, making reference to the French and German national anthems, and the songs, especially "As Time Goes By", originally written in 1931 but since 1943 always associated with this film.

There is not sufficient space here to do justice to all the many aspects of this wonderful film. I will therefore just close my review by saying that as a combination of war, adventure and romance, and for its perfect marriage of script, direction, acting and music, "Casablanca" cannot be beaten. It gets better as time goes by. 10/10

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Don't just watch it, Be a part of the Epic!

Author: Himanshu Mishra from India
20 September 2012

I have always watched and enjoyed movies produced all over the world but I feel its high time I put my thoughts on paper for the sake of records at least . Also, these will have the potential to create some nostalgic value later.

Coincidentally, I watched Casablanca for the first time (emotionally) few days back. The movie which is largely known as one of the greatest love stories of all time is not one, its much more than a mere love story.

It is a work of a man who at the time of making this piece seemed to have acquired such levels of skills in his art form that it is next to impossible to be able to find a flaw in this work even for the finest of the observers.

How do I even start here? I should very well start with the image which has not left me ever since I have finished watching the movie. There is no doubt that Ingrid Bergman is one of the most naturally beautiful actresses Hollywood has seen in the last century, but in my opinion she is also one of the very few actors who could speak through their eyes exactly what was there in the heart of the character she was playing. This is a skill/gift which is found in a rare breed of actors. The scene where she looks at Rick (Humphrey Bogart) after all those years of separation is a perfect example of the role eyes ought to play to emote ones feelings without utterance of a single alphabet. Its hard to believe how she did not receive an Oscar nomination for this movie as she ended up receiving seven of them in a long glittering career. The prospect of watching all of those is a temptation that can not be defined.

I haven't seen all of Bergman's fine performances but in the few that I have seen, one can easily conclude that she has the ability to give multiple layers to her character which is the case in Casablanca as well. The flair with which she has been able to shift between various moods of innocence, mystery and sheer passion is remarkable. Of course, credit must also go to Curtiz who orchestrated this mood dance.

The character of Rick is like an iceberg which has been put in fire to melt and vanish and just before it starts to lose its identity it takes inspiration from itself and extinguishes the fire with the water it had lost. There could not have been a better choice for this role than Humphrey Bogart, every square inch of whose countenance reflects the state of mind he is in. Moreover, he is a true style icon in this movie and fits the part to the hilt which pops up the following question: was the role of Rick written for him or he was the best fit for the role!

As is seems, the image of protagonists is at the top of my mind their role in the greatness of the movie is certainly not limited to being the faces of the movie. Having said that, below the surface its the work of a master who has engineered multiple components into a giant which overpowers most others in its proximity. This fine piece of work makes its entry straight into the list of Cinema Extraordinaire because of its universal appeal, unique treatment, essentially real yet whimsical script, gripping screenplay and stupendous display of ever changing human behavior.

The range of emotions and situations this film has on offer at every stage of the movie makes it a sumptuous and delicious meal for audiences of varying taste. The movie reaches its climax in 95 minutes and it feels like that perfectly timed dessert which is an extremely rare delight.

The manner in which any two characters have been linked in this movie is the most unique to say the least. There are many two way relationships which have been portrayed with considerable depth on screen in such a small time that you start wondering by the time movie reaches its final moments that how was it even possible to experience so much in such a short time.

Every character leaves an indelible mark even though all it did in the movie was hit a few guitar strings or pick pocket at a restaurant. Every scene in the movie is a study in itself.

This is a must watch for anyone who has ever thought of himself as a movie fan. Casablanca without doubt makes its way in my all time top 5 list!

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Excellent! One of the best!

Author: Mary Ann
14 March 2012

Romance. Drama. Humphrey Bogart. 3 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Put them together and what do you get? Warner Brothers' "Casablanca". Set in Casablanca during WWII, this film tells the story of Rick Blaine (Bogart), a bar owner bitter after an abruptly-ended romance with the lovely Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman). Rick's doing okay, that is until Ilsa walks back into his bar and his life, bringing her husband (Paul Henreid) with her. Add into the cast great talents like Claude Rains, Peter Lorre and Sidney Greenstreet and how can you lose?

Arguably the best movie of all time, "Casablanca" is well-worth viewing. If you haven't seen it, get it and watch it. If you have seen it, get it and watch it again. Watch it, Sam. Watch "Casablanca".

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

One of the greatest films ever

Author: Tweekums from United Kingdom
23 July 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

If ever a film deserved to be considered a classic then this is it, even if you haven't seen it before you'll recognise much of the dialogue; it is probably the most quoted, and misquoted, film of all time. Humphrey Bogart is excellent in this career defining role as bar owner Rick Blaine who has come into possession of two "letters of transit" which guarantee the holders unhindered passage out of Casablanca. He has these as Ugarte, the man who asked him to look after them, was captured by the Vichy French police before he could get them back. Ugarte had been planning to sell the documents to Victor Laszlo, a Czech nationalist who is fleeing from Nazi occupied Europe to the United States via neutral Portugal. Things are complicated by the fact that Laszlo's wife Ilsa had a relationship with Rick before the fall of Paris and he never really got over her.

Right up until the end we don't know what Rick will do, perhaps he will let Victor and Ilsa have the letters, perhaps he will let Victor have them on condition that Ilsa stays with him or perhaps he will betray Victor and leave Casablanca himself with Ilsa. Bogart isn't the only great performance; Ingrid Bergman is fantastic as Ilsa, there is a real chemistry between her and Bogart, Claude Rains is great as the French policeman who's loyalty is likely to change depending on who he thinks is likely to be the most use to him and Paul Henreid's restrained performance as Victor Laszlo is faultless too.

It is hard to say what genre this film is, it is one of the great romances, it is also a war film, a thriller and even has some subtle comedy moments. Don't be put off by the film's age, the fact that it is in black and white or that it has a U certificate, this film is a must see. Whatever your tastes you owe it to yourself to watch this at least once, although I suspect few people will only want to watch it just once.

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

More than a classic

Author: IronBob
25 December 2008

There's one aspect of Casablanca that is seldom if ever discussed. Every character in the movie has made choices out of necessity rather than desire and yet the entire movie centers around desire.

Humphrey Bogart's, Rick, settles in Casablanca after being on the run with Sam, his piano man who has very little choice but to follow him. Bergman's, Ilsa, who is torn from Bogart in Paris, leaves him out of necessity when she learns her husband who she thought was dead is alive.

Ilsa's husband played by Paul Henreid, is a non-reluctant political mercenary, taking refuge in Casablanca.

In the background there is Louie, the French prefect, who also by necessity plays the aggressive supporter of Vichy France and yet has no love for his superiors.

In the background is the oppressiveness of the German army in a town where every non-native is there out of necessity, trying to free themselves from the yoke of German viciousness.

Thus is the backdrop where desire must heed to necessity against a menace out to crush both. A truly remarkable film with remarkable performances that have gone on to be more than a timeless classic but rather a thread in the fabric of every American. It carries messages that may seem lost on today's youth but still provides timeless lessons.

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

The ultimate classic…

Author: Michael DeZubiria ( from Luoyang, China
15 April 2008

I believe it was Mark Twain that once lamented about his works being called classics, because in his opinion a classic is something that everyone respects but no one ever reads. Or watches, in the case of movies. To a certain extent I agree, because who other than English majors reads The Waste Lands or Heart of Darkness or Hard Times? And who really watches Citizen Kane or The Third Man or Casablanca for the entertainment value?

Well, maybe more people than I think. The Third Man is a hell of a movie. For me, the first half or so of Casablanca was remarkably uninteresting, although the atmosphere created by the war taking place off screen is incredibly well done. I just hope I'm not becoming spoiled by modern film, that's one of my biggest fears.

Casablanca is the last hope for people who can't get to Lisbon to escape from Europe as it descends into war, and because all of the dregs of European society (the people who can't afford to buy their way out) make their way by hook or by crook there, it becomes a sort of a prison where people wait for years for their chance to escape to America.

The movie is so famous and such an enduring classic that it's almost impossible to write a review of it without mentioning some of the memorable lines, which are so famous that they have become a part of modern lore, like "Here's lookin' at you, kid," and of course, "Of all the gin joints in the world…"

It's hard to imagine the movie-making world in which the movie was made, but equally fascinating to learn that the people making the movie had no idea that they were making what would become one of the most popular movies ever made. It was a big movie, of course, but it was made on a relatively tight budget, which is something that I wish modern filmmakers would remember. Money has never been what makes great movies. Few people know that anymore.

There is an intensely romantic story in the movie, what must be the best love story in a war film ever made, and it is remarkable how convincing and unpredictable it is. During the first half of the movie, it's easy to think that you can see exactly where it's going, which is most likely the reason I found parts of the first half slow and uninteresting.

But soon there comes a point where you realize that you can't predict the ending. Specifically, this happens when we learn that Ilsa's (Ingrid Bergman) "new" love, the man for whom her romance with Rick (Humphrey Bogart – one of the biggest giants in film history) has to end, is really a good man.

It's a strange love triangle between the three characters, one that many people may find morally repellent, but moving nonetheless. These are real people, not movie characters, and it seems that their amazing level of realism comes across on the screen so smoothly that it's almost by accident.

Ultimately Casablanca is a story about painful sacrifice for the greater good, softened by the assertion that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. It's fascinating to consider the reality of that statement as we hurtle through the cosmos suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. But as we try to find all the answers, it's nice to be able to look back to one of the most tumultuous times in modern history and see three people who know they have to suffer but know the reason why. So often we aren't afforded that luxury in real life.

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

So precise and detailed, so nostalgic, so legendary. So good

Author: Aku Koskinen from Finland
6 May 2007

For a long time I felt ashamed that I had never seen "Casablanca" which is among the most legendary movies ever made. Last night I finally had the chance to watch it and I was very surprised how good it actually was even this day when movies are so different. If you are going to watch this movie you honestly have to relate to the time when it was made, because if you're going to watch it like any other movie, you may be disappointed.

It was breath taking to see how detailed this movie actually was. Everything's just so precise, from the dialog to every single item that you see on the screen, even if it was only in the background. You can't even compare the acting to acting these days, it just isn't anything near it, as it's a totally different art form of its own, so significant and so great. Every single word spoken by every character is so powerful and compelling, every word is precise and carefully chosen. Humphrey Bogart is perfect for the role, a bad ass American, Rick Blaine, who owns a night club at Casablanca during the World War II, but yet he is surprisingly soft-hearted. Then there's the beautiful Ingrid Bergman, whose beauty shines through the screen in her role of Ilsa Lund, the woman who was Rick's one time love when they met in Paris. The story between Rick and Ilsa is filled with passion like no other, making the whole movie one of the most passionate movies ever made.

The screenplay's just excellent and it also compliments the whole directing of the movie. It progresses with scenes that are just so phenomenal, so legendary and so nostalgic. It includes one of the most legendary quotes in the history of motion pictures, for example; "Play it once, Sam", "We'll always have Paris" and "I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship". Even when I had never seen the movie, I just immediately recognised those sentences and smiled, as they are among the sentences everybody knows even if they've never seen "Casablanca" before. The whole plot is also surprisingly exciting, comparing to the plots nowadays it would definitely work in any movie, as it is just so thrilling from the beginning till the end and you just can't know how it ends before the last minute of the movie. The final solution's just genius and it's actually so good that I had to start clapping my hands together when the movie ended. Superb.

One of the best things now when I've seen the film is that I can finally be proud in saying "I've seen Casablanca. And I love it" Even after 65 years, "Casablanca" simply shines, making it enjoyable in every imaginable way. It's thrilling, it's passionate, it's flowing and it's just excellent. Throw away your thoughts of modernity and enjoy some real nostalgia with amazing role performances, superb directing and an excellent screenplay. A masterpiece.

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Rick Makes the Heroic Choice: One of the Best Hollywood Films of All Time

Author: classicalsteve from Oakland, CA
5 April 2007

Many a-great film or theatrical play is about a character (or characters) making a monumental choice. The results of that choice may be tragic, such as Oedipus' decision to pursue the mystery of his parentage, MacBeth's resolve to assassinate his sovereign, or even when Gene decides to cause Finneas' accident in "A Separate Peace". The choice can also be selfless, heroic, even transcendent. Atticus Finch in "To Kill a Mockingbird" agrees to defend a black man that prompts ridicule by his white peers. The passengers of the doomed cargo plane in "The Flight of the Phoenix" determine not to lay down and die in the desert but rebuild something from the wreckage that could save them. And Rick Blaine, played by Humphrey Bogart in his most memorable role, also makes an heroic choice in the ageless and timeless American film "Casablanca".

The film is set against the potent backdrop of World War II at a small town in Morrocco, Casablanca, and the majority of the action takes place in a restaurant-bar-casino owned by Rick Blaine. Many different personages of differing background cross the threshold into Rick's: French police, German officers, Nazis, and even members of the French Resistance.

Rick at first appears to be a selfish loner. He even says that he "sticks his neck out for nobody". At yet there are hints, even at the beginning, that there is something inside of him that has concern for others. The film appears to be about how Rick sets the nobler part of himself free from the cynical veneer that he wears. In the first scenes, Rick rarely smiles. He is quick to lose his temper, doesn't expose his emotions, and appears only interested in the profitability of his restaurant-casino. A scene early on exposes the selfless part of Rick briefly, but he brushes it off and quickly re-dons his cynical persona like a worn overcoat. Victor Laszlo also begins to suspect there is more to Rick when he says that he is "a man who's trying to convince himself of something he doesn't believe in his heart."

The episode that begins to bring that part of Rick back to himself is a former lover, played with magnetic emotionalism by Ingrid Bergman, who enters Rick's place after a long absence, escorting an important leader of the Resistance against the Nazis. I believe this portrayal may be the best romantic performance by an actress in a leading role I have ever seen. While at once feminine and gentle, Bergman is also highly resolved and dedicated to her cause. She is no wall-flower by any stretch. At first Rick appears tormented by her reappearance and a flashback to their love affair in Paris cut short by German occupation affirms the reasons behind Rick's attitude toward her return. (For a movie made during the war in 1942 to adequately depict how the German regime changed peoples' lives is one of several miracles that permeate throughout Casablanca.)

Twists and turns throughout the story do not necessarily foreshadow the final choice that Rick Blaine makes in the end. And we find that Rick was always a hero, and every male in the world aspires to his heroism. This is one of the best reasons why, I think, Casablanca has become not only a classic but a cinematic masterpiece. We all want to make the transcendent choice that may not be best for ourselves, but best for others.

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

As Time Goes By ...

Author: writers_reign
22 February 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

... it totally fails to dim or tarnish this Golden movie which is, in its own way, as iconic as Citizen Kane it's near contemporary (they were released in subsequent years). Like any film fan worthy of the name I've seen it around a dozen times in re-runs and on TV and I have owned the DVD since it became available but it's a joy to see it once again - and digitally remastered with it - in its natural habitat, the big screen as it is re-released yet again and I'm particularly pleased that it marks my 800th Review on IMDb.

When one just thinks about it what springs to mind is how it gives the lie to those muppets who keep insisting that Film is a 'Visual' medium because it's nothing if not a continuous string of quotable lines, arguably the most of any other movie in the English language but when one SEES it again it is, in fact, a combination of dialogue and visuals. The opening sequence alone is a Masterclass in screen writing and sets up virtually everything we need to know about the subsequent events. Equally accomplished is our introduction to Rick whose opening dialogue/action confirms what we have been told about him. Another telling visual is the way Claude Rains straightens his tie when informed that there is 'another visa problem' outside his office and his 'show her in' tells us everything we need to know about him making his line to Rick 'make it ten thousand francs, I'm only a poor corrupt official', superfluous. Note also the close ups of Bogie, Bergman and Paul Henreid in the penultimate scene at the airport, conveying more than words can about this bittersweet triangle. I could go on - indeed, I'm tempted to - but I have a feeling it's all been said before and almost certainly will be again and all I can do is envy anyone who has still to see it for the first time.

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

One of the greatest American movies ... ever.

Author: boone052 from Canada
16 December 2006

A true classic! Anyone who is a fan of movies must see this film. Simply one of the best movies of all time. Bogart at his absolute best. Great casting (reuniting Bogart, Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet, who played together so well in ' Tha Maltese Falcon', was brilliant). Absolutely one of my favorites. One of Bogart's most sympathetic characters, in one of the most quoted (and misquoted) movies of all-time. Simply fantastic movie-making from a great era in American cinema. This movie, and Bogart's character of 'Rick' most notably, are reminiscent of other great genres of American cinema of the time, like film noir and the hard-boiled detective story (of which Bogart was a mainstay at the time). Anyone who considers his or herself a fan of love stories, drama, or American cinema (or nostalgia) must see this movie. It is the quintessential 40's American movie.

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