The time, during World War Two. The place, Casablanca, Morocco. Exiled American and former-freedom fighter Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) owns and runs the busiest nightspot in town. Pessimistic and cynical, yet realistic, Blaine comes into contact with two letters of transit. When Nazi, Major Strasser (Conrad Veidt) arrives in town, the corrupt police captain, Captain Renault (Claude Rains) does everything he can to appease him, such as preventing underground leader Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) from leaving Casablanca.
Blaine is shocked when he sees Laszlo has arrived with Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman), Rick’s former lover. He’s still bitter from what occurred in their shared history. She cut her losses and ran out on him in Paris. When he hears the valid reason why she did such a thing, they plan to pick things up where they left off. They still love each other very much, and they hatch a plan to be together forever by running away into the sunset with those two letters of transit. If only plans were as simple as black and white. The Nazis would say otherwise.
“You’ll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life” is probably the most iconic quote from this film, and one of the best-remembered quotes from all cinema. And it says so much. In this context, it’s about Ilsa going with Victor, and leaving Rick in Morocco. Yet it can also be applied to life. Every choice we make, every step we take… everything we do has consequences. Those consequences may not be evident straight away. Sometimes we don’t see the repercussions until the years after and we think “what if I had done this differently?” because tomorrow is the future and it’s not promised.
Casablanca is one of those movies that one can watch repeatedly without getting bored. Why my generation would rather watch plotless action movies than a film driven by story and character, I will never know. Despite my brutal stereotype, I have to yet find a person between the age of sixteen and twenty-five who has watched and liked Casablanca, or films from this era. What is so good about this film? Along with Gone With The Wind, it’s one of the best love stories ever told, filled with stellar acting performances and otherworldly cinematography. And ‘As Time Goes By’ is a simple song that says a lot, and it’ll stay with you long after the credits roll.
This picture is a cinematic cocktail of genres. Casablanca is first and foremost, a romantic drama. Once you strip it back, it’s also a film that incorporates crime, murder and corruption, war and politics. There are moments of comedic brilliance, like the pickpocket. “This place is full of vultures, vultures everywhere.” I laughed out loud at the sight of Captain Renault accepting his winnings from his gambling after he had just closed down Rick’s club for the very same thing. “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!” he says, accepting a wodge of money. “Your winnings sir” says Croupier, and Renault replies “Oh thank you very much.” It pokes holes in the establishment, it’s witty and intelligent. Gut-bustingly brilliant.
From its performances to its cinematography to the score to the sets, Casablanca has it all. But the dialogue is truly tremendous. The lines are so quotable. It’s one thing to have an excellent screenplay, it’s another thing entirely to have a cast who can deliver that screenplay with the skill and class that Bergman, Bogart and the supporting cast did. “Not an easy day to forget. I remember every detail. The Germans wore grey, you wore blue” or “With the whole world crumbling, we pick this time to fall in love.” Quite honestly, the whole script is unforgettably delivered. “I was misinformed.” It’s a stroke genius. And it’s been an influence to hundreds of romance dramas since, with the latest one I’ve seen being Allied, Casablanca meets Mr & Mrs Smith.
From the main cast to the supporting cast to the spectral one-line/two-line characters who are never seen again, there is not a single weak link in the entire cast. As much as I have tried to look for a weak link in this film, and believe me, every time I watch it, I have tried, I struggle to find one. Alas, the post-2010s has some gems but it also has a lot of shit, but one thing is for certain, we will always have Bogart and Bergman in the 1942 masterpiece Casablanca. If you have watched it, watched it again. If you haven’t watched it, watch it. If you don’t, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.