Before Casablanca, Bogart broke out with The Petrified Forest. Even then, he was a commanding actor, but oddly enough another actor in the film's ensemble cast, Leslie Howard, had this magnetic charisma unparalleled in perhaps any other film that I have ever seen. The film itself is basically in one-location only and is in real time. As much as I love the melodrama Casablanca, this gives you much more to think about.
It's noticeable that the source text is from a play, but mostly it's only a good thing. The conversations give food for thought, Howard has incredible magnetism, Bogart's performance as a villain is impressive, and young Davis is lovely (albeit a bit too exuberant, which I think settled down later). The desert as a location is fantastic: the wind howls and the desolate views make the people appear small. (continues)
Gramps: "The woman don't live or ever DID live that's worth five thousand dollars!" Alan Squier: "Well, let me tell YOU something: You're a forgetful old fool. ANY woman's worth EVERYthing that any man has to give: anguish, ecstasy, faith, jealousy, love, hatred...life or death. Don't you see that's the whole excuse for our existence? It's what makes the whole thing possible and tolerable!"
Most surprisingly of all you forget that this was a stage play. This has such an electric charge running through it that you find yourself unable to turn away, mostly due to the relationship between Bogart and Howard, who form two halves of the same coin. The gangster and the disillusioned intellectual have no place in this emerging America, men beyond their means who tower over the pitiful lesser-minded simpletons.