May 9, 2010

Casablanca Review

Who hasn't seen Casablanca yet? It's one of those classic movies which totally define the genre. In some senses it's the classic movie by which all others are measured. And if you've never seen it you're a barbaric Philistine.


I'm one of those people. Never saw it. Never had a girlfriend make me see it. And it's not that I have anything against classic movies - it's just that I feel anything this hyped can't be all that good.

So it was with a little trepidation, but also a feeling that I can give some proper subjective bias to the subject, that I rented the DVD and sat down to watch it.

First, the unexpected things I liked: there are pleny of unsavioury characters around: corrupt French officials, villainous Nazis and general lawlessness abounds. Also, the first half of the movie is lovely and cynical. This is in stark contrast to the sappiness I was expecting. None of that. In fact it's quite funny and entertaining. I also gained some new-found respect for the old-school actors such as Humphrey Bogart and Claude Rains. There is a really nice sincerity and down to earth manner in their acting - you won't find anything fake here.

And while all these points are very much in the movie's favour, I'm not quite sure I see what all the fuss was about. At it's heart it's really just a very standard romance movie, with a bit of a war background thrown in. Sure, a lot of the dialogue is hillariously well written but not to the point where I'd say "they don't make movies like these anymore".

While the story is set against a pretty dark background, I also don't feel that these issues are truly explored to maximum effect. I constantly wanted to know a bit more about the history of these events rather than just the short opening narration. In it's defense at the time of filming most people probably would've been up on the state of current affairs.

I'm not going to repeat the main plot layout. I'll assume that most readers, unlike me, would've seen this before. And I'm not one for spoilers in anycase.

I have to conclude that most likely what holds Casablanca so up high is probably a lot of nostalgia, mingled in with movie studio WWII propaganda.

What is the verdict? I'd recommend it to people, but I don't think this self-confessed geek will give up his scifi and classic war movies just yet.

Score: 3.5/5

Category:Movie Reviews 
Posted by: johann