If Casablanca isn’t the greatest movie of all time – and there are those who will argue in its favor – it’s certainly the greatest piece of movie entertainment. Directed by Michael Curtiz, no other picture has so deftly handled those Hollywood staples of intrigue, adventure, and romance. Humphrey Bogart has his definitive role as Rick, an American abroad who runs a saloon in the North African city of the title. These are the early days of World War II, and Rick’s establishment has become a way station for the governing French, the soon-to-be occupying Germans, and the European refugees caught between them. Rick has dug himself in as a cynical bystander – “I stick my neck out for nobody” – but that philosophy is put to the test when Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman), a former lover who ditched him in Paris, shows up with her resistance fighter husband Victor (Paul Henreid). Casablanca hinges on the most intricate love triangle in the history of the movies. Believed to be dead, Victor returned to Ilsa on the day she and Rick were planning to flee Paris (she never told Rick she had been married, and she never saw him again to explain). No one is completely in the wrong, in other words, and now there seems to be no way of making things right. The more familiar you are with this complicated back story, the more poignant and heartbreaking Casablanca becomes. Repeated viewings only enrich it. Despite the presence of iconic supporting players such as Claude Rains, Peter Lorre, and Sydney Greenstreet, Bogart dominates the picture – largely because Rick is reluctant to do just that. A battered romantic, Rick resists committing to anything – a cause, a country, a woman – because he knows how much taking that risk can hurt (and here he stands in for American isolationism). All of which makes the classic final scene – set on a foggy tarmac – all the more bittersweet. Rick’s last gesture is a romantic one, though not necessarily the happy ending that today’s timid Hollywood dramas have conditioned us to expect. Casablanca leaves you with a punch in the gut. That’s why we can feel it to this day.