To understand why Rick needs redemption, let's look at what Rick and his rival for Isla's love, Victor Lazlo, each represent. Victor represents the idealistic vision of a cause. He is willing to give everything to fight against tyranny. He has spent time as a political prisoner and appears even...
To understand why Rick needs redemption, let's look at what Rick and his rival for Isla's love, Victor Lazlo, each represent. Victor represents the idealistic vision of a cause. He is willing to give everything to fight against tyranny. He has spent time as a political prisoner and appears even stronger for it. Even after achieving his own freedom, he puts himself back into danger. Rick, on the other hand, ostensibly cares for nobody but himself. Before the war, he and Ilsa lived carefree in Paris, not concerning themselves with the coming conflict. He represents the notion that everything will be fine if one does not get involved with the struggles of nations at war.
We do, however, see cracks in that veneer throughout the film. For example, he helps a young refugee couple purchase their travel papers; although, he appears reluctant to do so. This proves that he does know justice from injustice. However, he has cultivated the image of a callous businessman who takes no sides in the conflict surrounding him. He unemotionally serves Germans and French partisans alike in his bar. It is from this self-imposed mask of selfish indifference he wears that he must redeem himself.
Rick finally does receive redemption during the final scene of the film. He has made a deal with Ilsa, that he will help Lazlo escape, but only if she agrees to stay with Rick. Once again, Rick has shown his callous selfishness by crafting this deal. It appears that he has even convinced Ilsa that this is the satisfactory course of action. Ilsa has confessed that she still loves Rick but is committed to helping Lazlo with his cause. By staying with Rick to help Lazlo escape, perhaps everyone is getting what they want. Rick's moment of redemption comes when he tells Ilsa that she needs to leave with Lazlo after all. In fact, he already has her travel documents prepared. By letting her go, he has finally committed a selfless act to forward the cause of the resistance against fascism. He has made a stand and taken a side. This is further cemented when he shoots Major Heinrich Strasser, the German officer who tries to stop Lazlo's escape. There is no going back for Rick after this. He has given up everything: his love, his bar, even his safety for the cause.