Best Movies of All Time + [war]

CASABLANCA

CASABLANCA1942

"You played it for her, you can play it for me."
-- Rick Blaine

Casablanca is a 1942 Academy Award-winning drama directed by Michael Curtiz that centers around a romance in the midst of World War II. It takes place in December 1941, where we meet Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), an American owner of a saloon in Casablanca in Morocco, a place which serves as a springboard for Europeans looking to make their way to the Americas. Ever since the love of his life left him standing on a train station, Rick has been cynical and apathetic to life and politics, so he simply makes his living day in and day out without causing much trouble. That all changes when a couple of German couriers are murdered in the Moroccan desert and two letters of transit to Lisbon are found missing. Rick happens upon the letters on the night that his former love, Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman), walks into his bar with her husband Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid), an escaped captive of a German concentration camp who has become a leader in an underground movement determined to stop the German army's advance. Because of his political standing, attempts are made to keep Laszlo in Casablanca, but as old feelings start to return, Rick finds himself caught in the middle of the authorities and his love for Ilsa.

I've only seen Casablanca once before watching it today, and it was definitely quite a few years ago that I gave it my first viewing. I vividly remember loving it upon my first watch, but it wasn't until today that I remembered just how brilliant and beautiful it actually is. There's something about this movie that just sucks you into the storyline and the characters and never once releases its grip.

For starters, we've got a fantastic, Oscar-winning screenplay to set the film's storyline. For whatever reason, stories of romance set against the backdrop of wartime efforts seem to work relatively well (also see: 1939's Gone with the Wind). In this case, we're never actually taken into the war, but the entire storyline revolves around the German Third Reich's attempt to keep one man from fleeing to the Americas where he could possibly speak of the atrocities he suffered at their hands. At the same time, we're being thrown into the middle of a past romance that suddenly resurfaces at the most inopportune moment. Throw in a few twists and turns for good measure, and you've got yourself a story that's going to keep the viewer engaged on its own. Some of the real strength of this movie's screenplay, however, lies in its dialogue, which proves to be exceptionally brilliant. At times, it delves into the serious, but there's actually quite a bit of witty and sarcasm thrown in here and there for those of you who are paying attention. I hadn't noticed it until today, but there's quite a bit of comedy to be had. And it's a bit of an understatement to say that this film is quotable. In 2005, the American Film Institute (AFI) released their list, "AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movie Quotes," and Casablanca was featured six times, making it the most featured film. Here are the featured quotes (and their rank on the list), for your reading pleasure:

"Here's looking at you, kid." -- Bogart as Rick Blaine (#5)
"Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship." -- Bogart as Rick Blaine (#20)
"Play it, Sam. Play 'As Time Goes By.'" -- Bergman as Ilsa Lund (#28)
"Round up the usual suspects." -- Claude Rains as Capt. Louis Renault (#32)
"We'll always have Paris." -- Bogart as Rick Blaine (#43)
"Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine." -- Bogart as Rick Blaine (#67)
To put it lightly, the screenplay is pitch perfect and offers quite the cinematic experience all on its own.

Fortunately, we have a stellar cast that lives up to the fantastic screenplay and puts it into good use. Bogart gives an amazing turn in an Oscar-nominated performance, and he really steals the show. I've gone back-and-forth on whether I'm a fan of Bogart's style, but watching this movie will always make me respect and enjoy him as an actor. Bergman and Henreid offer great supporting roles, but some of the other supporting characters are truly the ones who stand up with Bogart as the stars. The aforementioned Claude Rains is damn near flawless in his execution of a "poor corrupt official," and he brings a dose of both comedy and menace to the screen. Dooley Wilson plays the aforementioned Sam, Rick's nightclub piano player who has been with him since his days in Paris, and who also brings the film's main theme ("As Times Goes By") to life. Here's his rendition from the film, for your viewing pleasure:

Also be on the watch for a great performance from Peter Lorre, who does well with his limited screentime.

At the end of the day, Casablanca is a classic romantic drama that everyone needs to see. As I said before, I had forgotten just how good it actually is, and I'm so glad I took the time to give it a view again today. If you haven't seen this film by now, do yourself a favor and put it at the top of your to-watch list. This is about as must-see as they come, and I'm sure you won't be disappointed.

Movie Review Summary
Grade: A+
2 Thumbs Up