Saturday, July 9, 2011

Casablanca (DVD) Review

One of the greatest, and certainly one of the most quoted, films in cinema history, Casablanca contains all the essential elements of a Hollywood blockbuster: adventure, romance, intrigue, suspense, and of course, evil Nazi bad guys (if you doubt this last one as an essential element, then reference the success of the Indiana Jones films). With a director (Michael Curtiz) and cast second to none, Casablanca makes a strong case for consideration as the best movie ever made. And although I loath clich├ęs, it is true that they just don’t make ‘em like this one anymore…

Casablanca unfolds in a place called Rick’s, a popular watering hole in Vichey-controlled Morocco on the outskirts of Nazi dominated Europe. An important travel hub, Casablanca plays host to numerous colorful characters with any number of varying agendas. Arms dealers, spies, and revolutionaries walk side-by-side through streets littered with pickpockets. But at Rick’s, everyone seems to enjoy themselves. Owner Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) seems content with his life of serving customers and making money, at least until the day she walks in, Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman), the love of Rick’s life.

Less than two years earlier, as the Nazis moved into Paris, Rick and Ilsa fell in love. But in the act of fleeing the Nazi advance, Ilsa sent Rick a note at the train station informing him that she could not go with him. She offered no explanation. Now, she was appearing in his establishment with her husband, fugitive and Nazi resistance leader Victor Laszlo.

As the hours pass, and the Nazis desperately search for Laszlo in an attempt to cut off his escape, Rick learns the truth about Ilsa and her reason for leaving. For the moment, Laszlo’s fate is in his hands. Since his days in Paris, Rick’s made a habit of being practical, both in his business life and in his personal life… But will Rick use his influence and connections to help himself or Victor Laszlo? Will his idealism prevail over his hardened pragmatism? The Third Reich is closing in, and Rick must make a decision regarding Ilsa and Laszlo before time runs out…

The recipient of widespread critical acclaim in the more than six decades since its release, Casablanca is one of the few films deemed as a “cinema classic” that actually lives up to the mega-hype surrounding it. The set design, costumes, and direction are absolutely flawless. The dialogue is superb. Bogart and Bergman are perfect as the lovers torn apart, and Claude Rains is unforgettable as Captain Renault. If you have an aversion to pre-1980 movies or some other strange reason for missing out on this one, then I highly encourage you to watch Casablanca. You won’t regret it.

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