1 Hr., 56 Mins.
Ocean’s Eleven is an average movie that looks and feels like it’s something special. Gaze upon it for only a few minutes and you’ll find yourself not only in the presence of George Clooney and Brad Pitt, but also of Matt Damon, Julia Roberts, Andy García, Don Cheadle, Carl Reiner, Casey Affleck, and Elliott Gould. Stars are everywhere we turn; decadence marks every corner; glamor, fun, style, penetrates the area. The suspense is a dash romantic, the comedy easygoing. It all seems so novel. But it isn’t.
The effortlessness of Ocean’s Eleven is all Steven Soderbergh, Hollywood’s most chameleonic director. (He’s jumped from sex, lies, and videotape [talky] to Erin Brockovich [crowd-pleasing] to The Girlfriend Experience [indie fluff]). To him, making a film as beguiling as this one is a piece of cake — and, being the skilled filmmaker he is, he does it much better than anyone else in the field could ever manage.
Most directors for hire would let the sizable cast, along with just the right screenwriter, do all the work. But Soderbergh, also cinematographer, is more than game to take the material to primal caper levels; the film doesn’t just go through the motions. Ocean’s Eleven is escapism with just enough intelligence, pizazz, and cool (did I mention star power?) to make it a blockbuster worth savoring, not passing aside. We forget it’s a remake because it’s better than the remake.
You might have heard the story by now. Following his release from prison, career criminal Danny Ocean (Clooney) finds himself in the mood to execute the heist of his career, and takes it upon himself to empty the financial structures of Las Vegas’s Bellagio, The Mirage, and the MGM Grand casinos. He’ll never be able to pull it off, we think. But maybe he can.
He pitches the idea to his right-hand man, the acute Rusty Ryan (Pitt), who likes, but is perhaps slightly afraid of, the plot. They then go to veteran security expert Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould) for the greenlight (he hesitantly says yes), and so goes the process of finding the perfect team to undergo the job. You might guess that the number of those included comes to a sharp eleven.
With much preparation and a near foolproof blueprint to boot, Ocean’s ambition just may pay off. But his confidence might go out of whack when he finds out that the manager of the casinos, Terry Benedict (García), is in a relationship with his ex-wife (Roberts), for whom he still has feelings.
Jaw-dropping intrigue ensues within the walls of Ocean’s Eleven’s quick-moving 117 minutes; its sophistication and wit rivals that of Topkapi, How to Steal a Million, and The Italian Job. This is fast, smooth, and dangerous entertainment, fat in all the right places, taut when it needs to be. And it is, perhaps, among the best uses of an ensemble for blockbuster means in the history of film — is there anything better than seeing our favorite actors come together in a well-made movie, eliciting a chemistry that suggests they’ve been friends for decades? It’s pleasurable in the most shallow of ways.
The heists aren’t too shabby, either. Elaborately staged and choreographed with just enough comic relief, they dazzle almost as much as the stars who stalk the premises.
So while you may not be remembering the ins and outs of Ocean’s Eleven a week after initial viewing, it isn’t a bad way to spend a couple of hours. We’re in the company of artistic professionals having a good time, and the aura is infectious. Akin to a roller coaster ride, the film is predictable in a forgivable way — I’ll be damned if it isn’t a fine adventure. B