Humphrey Bogart was certainly not the worldís greatest actor, but itís hard to imagine anyone else playing Rick Blaine, the outwardly cynical and inwardly hurting hero of Casablanca. Every word Bogart utters, and every glance he takes, drips with pain, regret, yet fortitude to continue on the painful path he has chosen.
Casablanca is a classic tale of lost love found again and then put at risk of being lost once and for all. Rick is our hero, and his lost love is the stunningly beautiful Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman).
Itís the Second World War, and the Nazis dominate Europe. Tens of thousands of refugees have fled the German onslaught, many passing through Casablanca, Morocco, on their way to America. Casablanca is halfway between two worlds Ė controlled by Occupied France, but frequented by enemies of the Third Reich.
Rick is one of the few refugees who has voluntarily stayed put in Casablanca, to run a bar and proclaim his loyalty to no one but himself. While he has a shady past, and there are hints that he hasnít always been as self-interested as he now proclaims himself, the Rick we meet is a world-weary fellow who only does favours to those who might offer him a benefit. Itís only when Ilsa and her husband, a Czech resistance leader, arrive at Rickís Cafť that Rickís vulnerability Ė and his true loyalties Ė become obvious.
Bergman is understated, yet overwhelming, as the beautiful and terribly sad Ilsa. Paul Henreid is convincing as her heroic but distant husband Ė a high profile, and highly principled, Czech resistance leader. The supporting cast is superb, especially Claude Rains, as Louie Renault, the self-serving French cop, and Dooley Wilson as Sam, who sings the classic song, ĎAs Time Goes By.í Other memorable supporting performers include Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre.
Itís a great ensemble, but itís the heat between Rick and Ilsa that makes Casablanca work so very well. Rick has been terribly wounded, and has built a life to avoid repeated injury. Ilsa has buried their shared past and resigned herself to loyal support of her husband. We all know that their love is submerged, but still very much alive. And as the pressure builds for Ilsaís husband to get out of Casablanca and continue his work in America, she and Rick face terrible decisions.
Casablanca is a film for anyone who has ever had a heartbreaking choice to make. Itís a movie for film lovers who enjoy unpredictable endings. Itís a film for anyone who has lost a love. Loaded with lines that have become part of our cultural lexicon, this is one of the great movies of all time.
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