Review: Casablanca

 

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Introduction

I thought I had seen all that the cinema had to offer. By the age of 10, my world was defined by Richard Attenborough welcoming me to Jurassic Park, and George Lucas had me dreaming in a galaxy far, far away. Even in my teens I felt that I had conquered the world of cinema. I had become a self-ascribed “film snob.”

That being said, I had no idea what magic lay ahead of me the day I said, “Hey, I like Bogart. Let’s give this Casablanca thing a shot.”

Before experiencing Casablanca, I was only familiar with Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon, a seminal film in my life, introducing me to Film Noir. Casablanca began, and immediately I felt at home. All the worries that usually accompany a new film viewing slowly drifted away, until a thought whispered to me, “This film is perfect.”

Yes, it truly is.

Summary

Casablanca stars Humphrey Bogart in a career defining performance as Rick Blaine, an expatriate who runs a nightclub in Casablanca, Morocco. After coming into possession of two important papers, Blaine is stirred into a mix-up with Nazis on the hunt for a Czechoslovak leader, Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid). Rick’s only problem is, Laszlo is seeing Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman), the woman Rick thought he would never see again after being separated in a war-torn France. Together they set out to stop the Gestapo and assist Laszlo–leaving Ilsa torn between the man she thought she had lost forever, and the man she never wants to lose.

Technical Aspects

To be blunt, this is a masterwork for director Michael Curtiz. Every scene is meticulously crafted down to the last detail, exuding strong direction in scene composition, and lighting. Every scene can be revisited multiple times, simply for exploration of the background, which is often rich with detail.

Any budding cinematographer would be crazy not to experience Casablanca, as it features lighting that defined the way movies would be lit after its release. Here, the lighting is not only pretty, but also useful in enhancing the story emotionally. Bogart is often partially in shadow, juxtaposed to Bergman whose innocence can be felt because of the soft light adorning her.

Max Steiner’s (most famous for Gone With The Wind) sweeping score plays well with the imagery, only adding to the audience’s longing to see Blaine happy again. On the technical side of the pond, Casablanca is a sight to behold.

Conceptual Elements

Julius and Philip Epstein pen one great screenplay, which works on building tension through multiple windows. On one hand, the Nazis hunting down Laszlo, on the other, Rick and Ilsa’s past returning to haunt them.

Upon initial release, Casablanca was seen as revolutionary for its antiwar message, as it never feels preachy and is quite subtle in the way it communicates with the audience. While not a suspenseful ride, it is one that is fully satisfying with great payoff for its appropriate 102 minute runtime.

The editing leaves the film trotting at a perfect pace as well, one that allows you to savor every line of now famous dialogue without dragging itself into pretentiousness. The cast delivers the script with great tone, and brevity. Bogart himself is a delight to watch, at times charming and mysterious. Ingrid Bergman opposite Bogart is comfortably cast, as the two share a chemistry that can never be reproduced. Together along with the rest of the cast, they both share in one of the strongest ensembles I’ve seen in a long while. I guarantee you’ve heard at least one line from this film, somewhere, in another form. You’ll be saying, “Oh, this is where that comes from!”

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Conclusion

The difficulty in critiquing a film such as this is that there is honestly nothing to complain about. It is a film that needs to be experienced by everyone, especially someone who refers to themselves as a “movie buff,” “film buff,” you get the idea. The effects of Casablanca can be seen in the decades following its release in many forms, particularly Bogart’s performance as the mysterious anti-hero.

If you’ve never experienced a film from the golden era of Hollywood, this is the perfect place to start. It really is the prime example of what not only solidifies films as art, but as relevant pieces of art (with the potential to be amazing). As a clock, all of its gears turn together with perfect precision; funny thing is, Casablanca is timeless.

Here’s lookin’ at you, kid.

 

Content Guide for Casablanca (1942)

Violence – The film’s antagonists are Gestapo officers, and there are some scenes of people being threatened with firearms. There are a few gunfights in the film, some show participants being shot and killed. A character dies off screen.
Sexual Content – At its core, this is a romantic story of two lovers who share several kissing scenes. A Nazi officer suggests sexual favors in return for travel visas.
Drugs/Alcohol – Almost every scene features a character or more drinking liquor, or smoking a cigar, or both.

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Positives

Negatives

The Bottom Line

 

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Josh Hale

Student of Jesus, lover of film, filmmaking, & film analysis. Raised in the church, Navy Brat, excited to write and create video reviews @ my YouTube channels. I love knowing that God uses stories to communicate with us through his word, and I am thankful for a community such as this. Thanks for taking the time to read this, Much Love. https://www.youtube.com/user/thebrotherhoodisdumb and https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5mvW_q5sy3O_CrR-FwGQhQ -

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