Casablanca review – A great film worthy of its acclaim providing a snapshot of a difficult period in history

Casablanca has an emotive plot, set against World War II and the impact it had on refugees and the ability to travel. The eclectic, multinational clientele of Rick’s Bar reveals German officers rubbing shoulders with petty criminals and gamblers.

After knowing the iconic lines “Here’s looking at you, kid” and “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine” for years, it was wonderful to finally hear them in context in Casablanca, meet the character who delivers them and understand the significance of the words.

Bogart delivers the perfect anti-hero in Rick. While suave and mysterious, Rick is also quite savage: “I’m the only cause I’m interested in.” He doesn’t share a drink with his guests, and his closest friend and confidante is Sam, his house pianist who has travelled with him for a number of years.

While Casablanca is undoubtedly Bogart’s film, he is ably supported by Bergman and Henreid. Bergman delivers a strong performance, and Henreid is very charismatic as the famed Czech resistance leader, Victor Laszlo.

However, it is the second-billed Claude Rains, as Captain Louis Renault, who proved the real scene-stealer. Rains is an absolute delight; he delivers several comedic lines of the corrupt prefect of police with his velvety smooth voice.

I particularly enjoyed these lines, when Captain Renault is speaking to Rick: “I’ve often speculated on why you don’t return to America. Did you abscond with the church funds? Did you run off with the senator’s wife? I like to think that you killed a man. It’s the romantic in me.”

My only slight fault with Casablanca is that it seemed to drag in the second third. The opening scenes were very enjoyable, meeting Rick and the various guests of Rick’s Bar, and the closing third was very dramatic, intense and, at times, moving.

Casablanca is a great film worthy of its acclaim: it provides an excellent snapshot of a difficult period in history, putting a complex and serious individual at the centre of the story, interweaving themes of love, honour and politics.

★★★★


Casablanca (1942)

Director: Michael Curtiz
Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid

Filmed and set during World War II, Rick’s Bar in Casablanca, then French Morocco, is a popular saloon bringing together all sorts of people. When a Czech resistance leader (Henreid) and his wife (Bergman) need safe passage to leave Casablanca, owner Rick Blaine (Bogart) must decide whether to help them or whether old feelings will get in the way.

  • Won the Academy Award (1944) for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Writing – Screenplay. Also nominated for five other Academy Awards, including Best Actor in a Leading Role (Bogart) and Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Claude Rains)

13 thoughts on “Casablanca review – A great film worthy of its acclaim providing a snapshot of a difficult period in history

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  1. I’m thrilled you’re watching some classic films! I LOVE LOVE LOVE Casablanca, as perfect a film as there ever was. The story, the acting, music, cinematography, set pieces… everything is just so well-crafted. It’s also a very quotable movies, though for the longest time I was like ‘what in the world is ‘here’s you looking at you kid’ all about??!’ ahah but after I saw it, I was like, ok I get it. Claude Rains was definitely the scene stealer, and I LOVE that last scene of him and Rick walking together.

    I first saw this nearly a decade ago, and this is what I wrote about it https://flixchatter.net/2012/03/21/great-expectations-seeing-casablanca-for-the-first-time-tonight/

    1. Thanks, Ruth. I’m really getting into them. They’re so very different to contemporary films, I think.

      Claude Rains was just brilliant. Really enjoyed him in it.

      Thanks for the link! Lovely post. It is so quotable – it was great to hear them ‘in situ’. Like you wrote in your post, it is odd though how people say “Play it again, Sam” but yet that is inaccurate!

      1. So do you have other classic films that you’re thinking of watching next? Have you seen Gone with the Wind yet? If I may suggest, how about Roman Holiday? Perfect for Valentine’s Day 😉

      2. I’m working my way through the (free) selection on BBC iPlayer. It’s limited to films from from RKO Pictures but there are some excellent ones Suspicion and Citizen Kane. There are plenty more I want to watch so thank you for your suggestions!

  2. I echo Ruth’s statement above: I love that you’re digging into some older classic films! Casablanca is rightly a masterpiece (and that’s an overused word these days) and still holds up when few films of similar vintage do. Glad you loved it!

  3. Still my all-time favorite movie. Even if I stumble on to it on cable, no matter at what point, I just have to finish it to the end. Get’s me every time. Wonderful review, Claire. 🙂

  4. Without doubt the greatest film ever made! Not sure I can quite say why – the whole thing is so perfect. I agree with al that has been said, especially about Rains, but for me Greenstreet and Lorre are superb too. Even Veidt, who fled the Nazis to end up playing them in Hollywood!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Mike.
      It’s a wonderful film and I’m so glad that I have finally watched it. There’s something very special about films from that period, especially when you consider what was taking place in the world at the time.
      That’s an interesting fact about Conrad Veidt. I’ve just looked him up on Wikipedia: he died of a heart attack less than a year after Casablanca was released.

  5. There are certain films that I am always envious when people are watching them for the first time, and Casablanca is one of those. Sometimes these venerated classics don’t quite meet the expectations that are laid out before them, but Casablanca lands everything. Possibly the finest screenplay ever written.

    It’s one of those films that on re-watch you are constantly getting excited because you are thinking “oh that bits next” or “that line is coming”.

    Big shout out also to Peter Lorre who is just brilliant in everything.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Dom. Luckily for me there are still lots of classics that I haven’t watched yet – over the last few years I’ve broadened my horizons instead of sticking to my favourite genres or rewatching films again.

      I’m certainly looking forward to rewatching Casablanca to spot things I’ve missed and also, like you say, to know that one of the iconic lines is coming up.

      Yes, Peter Lorre had some great lines!

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