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Ocean's Eleven

by Yoda
posted on 12/11/01
The original "Ocean's Eleven," released in 1960, was all about The Rat Pack. It was another excuse to look cool in front of a large group of people. The 2001 remake (starring George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Andy Garcia, Bernie Mac, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, and many others) is here for the same basic reason. Director Steven Soderbergh, at the helm of such recent hits as "Traffic" and "Erin Brockovich," is obviously capable of far much more cinematically.

For a director and cast like this, "Ocean's Eleven" is a walk in the park. Every character looks completely at home, despite the fast-paced dialogue, and remarkably subtle humor. "Ocean's Eleven" is not a particularly funny movie on paper, but when put in the hands of an overqualified director, and an experienced cast with a penchant for fine comedic timing, it becomes an absolute riot. From the pause between a certain word, to the tone of voice required, to the look in someone's eyes, this movie has it down pat. This is not "Meet the Parents" funny, or "Rush Hour 2" funny...this is Coen Brothers funny. Some of the humor is straightforward; though in those cases, it passes very quickly in the form of blink-and-you-miss-it, finely-crafted dialogue.

What is so pleasantly surprising about "Ocean's Eleven" is not that it delivers on the coolness and humor that the trailers promise, but that it also stands on it's own as a heist flick. The heist is mostly realistic, though very, very precise; the plan involved is a house of cards just waiting for a light breeze. Close calls are abundant, but in a movie with such a light-hearted tone, it's no surprise that nothing completely terrible happens. The ending has more twists than a mangled pretzel, some of which seem a bit superfluous at the time. Half the fun, though, is trying to guess what's going to happen next. The other half is finding out that you were wrong on at least one count.

Watching the heist in action, I couldn't help but compare it to "The Score," which, aside from having an equally impressive cast (arguably), had a much darker tone. After watching "The Score," I had lost any ambitions I might have ever had about becoming a thief. The entire process looks cumbersome, dangerous, and not particularly fun, even in the glow of success. In short: it was, quite likely, a realistic view of how heists really are. "Ocean's Eleven," on the other hand, has the opposite effect: you cannot help but smile at how cool and collected they all are. Much like one of Damon's past movies (and one of my personal favorites), "Rounders," this movie makes what is probably a very shady world in real life seem thrilling, and appealing. Don't go expecting realism...go expecting an overly flippant nature (given the seriousness of such a major robbery), a somewhat-realistic plan, and plenty to laugh at.

In case you were wondering, "Ocean's Eleven" does not dissapoint those looking for clich├ęs of the genre; the standard "let's get the old team together" montage is alive and well here. Ditto for the ever-entertaining (I doubt it'll ever wear out it's welcome...which is fine by me) "explain the plan once we've got everyone together" scene, complete with a list of the various key cards and access codes they do not have, and a description of the various security measures in place. This is partially explained through the use of voiceovers accompanied by shots of the security guards going through the process legitimately.

In short, "Ocean's Eleven" is the embodiment of a feel-good movie. Funny, clever, witty, subtle, entertaining, and surprising, it more than provides what its trailers and previews lay claim to. It is easily one of the best movies I've seen this year. See this movie if you want to laugh, if you want to see a fairly clever heist in action, if you want to view all the famous faces, or if you just want to have an all-around good time.

"Gone in Sixty Seconds" meets "The Score."