I’m certain most anybody frequenting this site knows the
meets girl, girl leaves boy at train station, boy opens up gin joint in
and of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, girl walks into
Of course, I’m simplifying the story too much.
The greatest thing about this movie is something it shares
with other great American classics like Citizen Kane and Sunset Boulevard.
While considered a Romance,
also has elements of Film Noir, Drama, and War. There are also some great
comedic bits, including the running gag of a pickpocket taking advantage of
naïve refugees. While most
of other genres in order to appeal to a wide enough audience in order to
Part of what makes this feel natural is the infinitely
quotable dialogue and how the actors interact with each other. Humphrey Bogart
especially feels at home with the cynical Rick. The whip-snap dialogue rolls off
of his tongue like poetry. The one part where Bogart does feel unnatural is
during the opening montage to the
flashback scenes. He’s supposed to be happy with Ingrid Bergman’s Ilsa,
unfortunately at best he comes across as uncomfortable. At worst he comes
across as constipated. Fortunately the rest of the time the two are onscreen
with each other, they create one of the most dynamic couples ever put on
screen. They love each other, but Rick is too bitter to forgive Ilsa and Ilsa
is too uncertain of what path to take in her life. Both actors portray this
well and it creates incredible tension.
Special note must be made of the supporting actors. All of
them play their characters incredibly well. Karl, Renault, Ugarte, Ferrari, and
Sam (even though he is a stereotype) are all memorable characters who will
stick with me for a long time.
Peter Lorre is always a pleasure to watch. Despite the fact
that he only appears for a little bit as the doomed criminal Ugarte, his
character remains one of the most memorable in a movie filled with memorable
characters. Another great is Captain Renault, played by Claude Rains (who Rocky
Horror fans know as the Invisible Man). It would have been too easy for this
character to be played as a complete slime ball. As it stands, Rains plays the
character as a likeable slime ball, one that I sensed had something more
inside. This makes the twist where he turns against Nazi Major Strasser (played
by Cabinet of Dr. Caligari star Conrad Veidt) more believable and natural.
The friendship between Rick and Renault is another strong
point of the movie. Both men are played as two sides of the same coin.
Sentimentalists and freedom fighters at heart, self-centered on the surface.
Throughout the movie, both men try not to stick their necks out too much
(especially Rick, who says that specifically). However, Renault can’t stick his
neck out as much as Rick, due to his position in power. Since the two
characters are similar, Renault sees something in Rick’s character and
sacrifice that immediately causes him to reflect on his position in life. Rick
then sees this connection as well. Thus the line, “Louis, I think this is the
beginning of a beautiful friendship.” Two men who’ve claimed to serve
themselves their entire lives are now going off to serve a cause greater than them.
The only major flaw I could see was the acting job of Paul
Henreid, who plays major resistance figure Victor Lazlo. He is too straight,
too stiff. It is understandable that the character is noble and good. This helps
lend to the great love triangle between Rick, Ilsa and Lazlo. He also helps to
make Rick realize that there is a greater good in the world. However, Henreid
plays him too straight. In this movie filled with memorable and intriguing
characters, Henreid does not stick out as well as he should.
The one scene where he does stick out is when the band at
Rick’s plays “La Marseillaise” to drown out the Nazis singing their own patriotic
song. This is not due just to Henreid though; everyone in the bar sings the
song with so much power that the scene packs the biggest emotional punch of the
entire movie. The song is not just the French Anthem at this point; it comes
across as an anthem for anyone in
This is a wonderful movie about sacrificing one’s
selfish tendencies in order to help others and fight for freedom. While the
movie’s morals are plainly stated, it contains a good message and many
memorable interaction between the all people contained within