Winston Churchill famously travelled during World War II in order to negotiate face to face with his allies and enemies. It’s a strategy that worked out well for the heroic Prime Minister. What if the Blitz had succeeded in bringing the UK to its knees? What if the United States hadn’t entered the war when it did? What if D-Day or Dunkirk had been utter failures, rather than the stories of perseverance and fortitude that we know today?
“Casablanca Express” explores the big “what if” of Churchill’s travels. The nightmare that must have kept the Prime Minister’s protectors awake at night is the stuff of this film. What if the charismatic leader had been intercepted by the Nazis during one of his longer journeys? How could he be recovered? Could a train heist for a valuable human be foiled even after the prize was captured? “Casablanca Express” answers these, and many other fun questions that are the kind of complete hypothetical situations that only security planners plan for.
Of course, delving deeply into the unknown outcomes of the “what ifs” drives many films and epic stories that we love. One of the greatest film scenarios that leaves the audience with these types of questions in their minds, “Casablanca” poses the question almost directly. What if Ingrid Bergman’s “Ilsa” had not gotten on that plane? Would she regret it for the rest of her life? We trust Humphrey Bogart’s “Rick” to prophesy the future. Rick knows she will, but we wish they could be together.
The television series “The Man in the Castle” also poses one of the more popular “what ifs” in history: What if the Germans had won World War II? How would the United States be different today if the Statue of Liberty were used as an icon of fascism, instead of the beacon of freedom it is today?
Some of our most revered films operate on the greatest versions of this question; and we love the story most when it involves World War II. What if the Ark of the Covenant was found and fell into the hands of the most evil regime in history? Would Indiana Jones be enough to wrestle the secret weapon from the hands of the sinister Nazis? Harrison Ford proved to render a perfectly believable hero to prevent this tragedy.
A second classic “what if” story is at work in “Casablanca Express.” What if this story takes place on a train? So many high stakes stories of murder and mayhem include trains, planes, cars, and even blimps. Of course, “Murder on the Orient Express” made housewife Agatha Christie a household name. Harrison Ford, again a hero in a “what if” story, portrays the President of the United States in “Air Force One.” Like “Casablanca Express,” the situation of a world leader who is captured by the enemy while in transit tickles our sense of big “what if” questions.
Stories and films of all types find fertile story-telling in exploiting the big “what ifs” of our times. Many of these involve important and beloved world leaders. Often these stories take place in times of great peril for great people along with the world’s people. One thing that is certain in the uncertain world of the “what ifs,” is the intrigue and excitement these stories bring.
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