Ocean's Eleven - 2001
Director(s): Steven Soderbergh
Writer(s): Ted Griffin (screenplay) / Harry Brown and Charles Lederer (1960’s screenplay)
Cinematography by: Steven Soderbergh
Editor(s): Stephen Mirrione
Cast: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Bernie Mac, Carl Reiner, Elliot Gould, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Eddie Jemison, Andy Garcia and Julia Roberts
Synopsis: Danny Ocean and his eleven accomplices plan to rob three Las Vegas casinos simultaneously (IMDB).
So, a few reasons why I’m doing this review. First-off, I really enjoy this movie. It’s one of the better heist movies of all time. A huge, talented cast in the hands of a hugely talented director makes it no surprise that it turned out to be a great movie. Secondly, Oceans 8, with the all-female cast is coming out this year and the trailers made me think of the originals, and now that they are on Netflix it was an easy decision. Lastly, I went to Las Vegas for the first time last week and I want to think I looked like Danny Ocean walking through the strip, but most likely I looked like sweaty, nervous Livingston Dell. So, grab something to snack on and let’s jump in.
Quick note: This is also one of the better remakes of Hollywood, respecting the original and standing on its own as a modern version.
There is a clear formula to almost all heist movies, and Soderbergh executes them all with ease thanks to the script from Ted Griffin. The formula goes as follows: leader recruits his team based on their set of talents. The team goes over the planned heist, presenting the target, the obstacles and the work around said obstacles. We see the plan get executed, with a few unanticipated wrinkles for added effect, and a small twist is revealed in the end that the script intentionally left out during the presentation of the heist plan. Ocean’s Eleven flows through these stages seamlessly as Soderbergh keeps a frantic pace throughout the entire run of the movie, always giving something fun, funny or interesting for the audience to chew on. It feels, fittingly, like a stage magician always keeping the audience engaged so the illusion (or twist) in the end is not seen coming from a mile away.
Quick note: Soderbergh also was the cinematographer of the movie and he utilized all the glitz and glamor of a Las Vegas casino, using the lights, the slot machines, the poker tables and the strip to add to the mise en scène of the movie.
The dialogue in this movie is crisp and fast. Danny Ocean, played by George Clooney, and Rusty Ryan, played by Brad Pitt, shine as they bounce lines off each other throughout the entire movie. My favorite scene is when they have already recruited eight players and they are going over the team. Rusty has his head laid on the bar and Danny is trying to convince him that a total of ten is more than enough to pull the job off. Rusty never talks to him as Danny is having a one-sided argument with himself since he knows exactly what Rusty would say. The rest of the cast shines as well, but I wanted to quickly single out a great scene from the late great Bernie Mac as he oversees the buying the vans and he is negotiating with the salesman. He delivers a non-threatening monologue about hand lotions while tightly griping the hands of the salesman. As the monologue goes on and on, covering night gloves to types of lotions, the grip gets tighter and tighter leading the salesman to drop the price to the shock and joy of Bernie Mac. Funny scene from a great comedian.
One of the aspects I truly love about this movie is how it handles its huge cast. All are given a trait or a quirk that gives you more than enough information to understand the type of person they are and how they fit into the crew. Brad Pitt is constantly eating as he clearly used to be a smoker and now his compensating his oral fixation with food. Elliott Gould is always showcasing his wealth and status either by gold chains or silk bathrobes. Casey Affleck and Scott Caan are constantly trying to one up each other as they need to prove to themselves who is the best. Matt Damon is always chewing gum as he is nervous, since this is his first big heist job. These traits are elevated by great acting and great chemistry by the entire cast.
Ocean’s Eleven is a great entry in to one of my favorite genres - heist. It’s clever, funny and full of entertaining set pieces that keep the audience engaged throughout the entire run time. The twist in the end completely fooled me on the first watch and upon repeated viewings it’s always fun to see them pull it off. George Clooney and Brad Pitt are at the height of charm, as it just oozes through the screen whenever they are on it. Steven Soderbergh is one of the most underrated directors working today and this movie is a prime example of how capable he truly is. Pitt eating his way through this movie’s runtime is why I love movies.
Ocean’s Eleven is currently playing on Netflix. Go watch it.
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