Movie Review: Casablanca (1942)

Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world…


Today is the final Movie Monday review, at least regularly scheduled, so I thought it fitting to end it with my favorite movie of all time: Casablanca. I don’t even know what a close second is, and as an adult I’ve seen this movie more often than any other film. It is the perfect movie, and it does it without a lot of the aspects of movies Hollywood all too often relies on now: there’s not a lot of violence (three deaths on screen), there’s zero nudity, no gore, no special effects save one trick of perspective.

All the movie has is story and the actors, and boy do they deliver: The starring role belongs to Humphrey Bogart, playing Rick Blaine. Rick is a jaded saloon owner in the neutral territory of Casablanca, right before the American entry into World War 2. Bogart plays it perfectly, letting on that there’s more to Rick with every utterance, but he’s not willing to tell us — or anyone. He has an adoring, loyal staff, the most prominent being Sam (Dooley Wilson), his piano player and closest confidant. Early on, we’re introduced to Ugarte (Peter Lorre), a man who immediately and obviously has something up his filthy sleeve — and he’s proud of whatever hijinks he’s just pulled off.

Soon enters Claude Rains, as Captain Louis Renault, the man in charge of supposedly neutral Casablanca. He’s got German visitors coming and wants to impress them: their visit is connected to part of the many goings-on at Rick’s, concerning Ugarte and other characters in the movie. The head and most important German is Conrad Veidt as Major Strasser. Fleshing out the main cast are the other two top-billed actors: the wonderful Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa, and Paul Henreid as Victor Lazlo.

There are less than a dozen different sets involved in telling this story. It all revolves around these characters interacting, set against the backdrop of a world war. The most prominent role is that of Sydney Greenstreet as Ferrari, who keeps the plot interesting with his limited screen time. There are a few important minor characters and stories that play out and give depth to the main characters as well.

As an aside — Greenstreet, Lorre, and Bogart also star together in another great, old classic: The Maltese Falcon.

The movie is adapted from a play, hence the suitability of such a small amount of sets. The plot is entirely driven by the desires and decisions of these people, and every scene sheds light on their relationship to one another, and their personality and goal. You couldn’t ask for a better cast to accomplish this. The movie is absolutely flawless, from start to end, telling a beautiful, if heart-breaking, story about these people’s lives in the midst of such a global storm.

I could praise this movie all day, and just about quote the entire thing. It. Is. Perfect.

Report card
Runtime: An hour, forty-two.
Acting: Without flaw.
Effects: You won’t notice the plane trick if you haven’t heard about it.
Violence: Sight.
Dead Casablancais: Two.
Revenge Kills: One.
Gun Use: Muted: less than a half dozen shots fired.
Gore: Not at all.
Monster Type? Nazis.
Funny? Sometimes.
Nudity: No.
Pet Death: No.
Pacing: Great.