Sunday, March 6, 2011

Casablanca - 1942 My Perfect Movie (Spoilers)

Stars: Humphrey Bogart
         Ingrid Bergman
         Paul Henreid
         Claude Rains
         Peter Lorre
Directed by Michael Curtiz
Summary: In World War II Casablanca, Rick Blaine, exiled American and former freedom fighter, runs the most popular nightspot in town. Blaine comes into the possession of two valuable letters of transit. When Nazi Major Strasser arrives in Casablanca, the sycophantic police Captain Renault does what he can to please him, including detaining Czech underground leader Victor Laszlo. Much to Rick's surprise, Lazslo arrives with Ilsa, Rick's one time love. Rick is very bitter towards Ilsa, who ran out on him in Paris, but when he learns she had good reason to, they plan to run off together again using the letters of transit. Well, that was their original plan.... (via imdb)
Normally, my reviews will be spoiler free, especially newer films, but seeing as this movie is well known and 60+ years old, spoilers full steam ahead.
Casablanca is what I have deemed a near-perfect movie. It is the perfect balance of superb acting, a wonderful and compelling story, suspense, intrigue, a dash of humor, and, at a brisk 102 minute run-time, it's the perfect length. 
Adapted from the play Everyone Comes to Rick's, the dialogue is crisp, believable, and at times, very moving. On the surface, it's a story of intrigue, rebellion, the fight for freedom and a loner with a cynical and self-serving bent. Of course, it's also a riveting love story, especially when you consider that there is no true happy ending for just about anyone in the film. And yet, it's not a sad movie either. The sacrifice that Bogart's normally self-serving character makes is in the best interest of all and the least as well.
The performances of the major players, and indeed some of the background characters, is note perfect. Ilsa, wonderfully and beautifully played by Bergman, is torn between her two loves and her duty as a wife. 
The story is gripping and honest. The movie moves at a brisk and engaging pace, never allowing any unnecessary plot points to interfere with the main themes. 
The twist ending (or twists really) is at once heartbreaking and endearing, and the whole thing ends on a perfect note. 

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