Critics Classics: Casablanca 80th Anniversary Review


The 1942 Michael Curtiz classic Casablanca is one of the most influential and compelling classics in the history of cinema. I have watched Casablanca in various formats over the years. The first was VHS, the second was DVD, the third was laser disc, the fourth was Blu-ray, and my fifth time was on the big screen. Although I enjoyed all the different formats, seeing this amazing filmon the big screen is simply the best. Casablanca immerses its audience in cinema appreciation mode to the fullest.

To recap the plot of Casablanca, the film takes place in Casablanca, Morocco in the WWII era. Humphrey Bogart is Rick Blaine, a café owner, an ex-patriot with drinking problems and emotional issues. Rick’s Café starts to receive letters regarding refugees with instructions for how to escape during the uncharted times depicted in the film. The other struggle in Rick’s life is his former lover, Ilsa, played by Ingrid Bergman. Her husband is Victor Laszlo, and he is played by Paul Henreid. In the film, Rick finds himself in a position where he needs to make hard choices involving his café and Ilsa that may have damaging consequences. Casablanca is all about connection, and what one man will do for those he truly loves. Rick loves Ilsa, but does he want to take risks for her?

With the relationship between Ilsa and Rick revisited in the movie, Casablanca’s directing, and writing are still inspiring. Some would label the film “noir.” The story, however, is a drama. The plot involves Rick finally coming to a decision about his café and Ilsa with the politics of WWII playing out around him. There are difficult choices for Rick, but it is hard to make the correct ones.

Bogart’s performance is exceptional, and it continues with Ilsa throughout the film’s journey of love and danger. Powerful elements are captured in the cinematography and the lighting. The dialogue is also enticing as thoughts, connection, and confusion are expressed. As one of the most famous quotes from Bogart goes, “Here’s looking at you, kid,” that moment continues to be invigorating and heartfelt. Bogart’s performance is the hero of Casablanca’s many years of brilliance and appreciation.

The nostalgia of Casablanca still lives on. Many decades later, it is still a masterpiece. The love between Rick and Ilsa is a gem.  Many aspects of this classic will continue to be appreciated through the years which is why I plan to revisit it in the future and savor even more nuances as I view this unforgettable film. Four stars.

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