Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Ocean's Eleven (2001)

Ocean's: Act One

- Most Hollywood directors would love to helm a lucrative film franchise and director Steven Soderbergh found his in the popular "Ocean's" series reconstruction. An adaptation of the 1960 Rat Pack vehicle of the same name, Soderbergh outdoes the vast majority of modern movie remakes by creating something fresh and vibrant with 2001's Ocean's Eleven.

Ocean's Eleven has the best collection of amiable crooks since Michael Caine & co. hung over the side of a cliff……. Danny Ocean is the leader of the bunch. Fresh out of prison, Ocean pins Terry Benedict, owner of three major Las Vegas casinos (including the Bellagio and MGM Grand) as his next target – but he needs a team of top thieves to successfully take Benedict's high-tech safe….

Let the heisting begin.

Ocean's Eleven is one royal flush of a slick heist film! Ted Griffin's jazzy script tells the character-driven (some more than others), funny, and engaging caper in a very tight and clever fashion. Plenty of twists and turns pop up during the film in all the right places that keeps the audience on their feet and a lot of hilarious bits of dialogue exist throughout that keep the laughs coming.

Stylish, sleek, and extremely colorful, Ocean's Eleven looks miraculous - Steven Soderbergh does the visual aspect of the film no wrong. The camera work was extremely well thought out and becomes essential to how effective the story is told but what is particularly great about Soderbergh's visual achievement in the film is the exquisite coloring. It is common knowledge that Soderbergh doubles as his own director of photography (under the pseudonym Peter Andrews) and every drop of color that Soderbergh dabs into every frame forms quite the stunning picture.

The cast is phenomenal; a big list of big names who give big performances. George Clooney and Brad Pitt star as Danny Ocean and Rusty Ryan, respectfully - Clooney's performance is strong and convinces everyone that Danny Ocean is the clear leader of this outfit while Pitt is in full suave mode with a particularly excellent delivery of his character's laid-back comedy. Both actors have great chemistry together and the pairing surely ranks among the best screen actor duos in film as far as likability and enjoyment goes.

Clooney and Pitt stand out above the rest but one really cannot go wrong with any of the cast members: Don Cheadle (as demolitions man Basher) and Elliot Gould (as Reuben Tishkoff, the bankroll) are especially hilarious; veterans Andy Garcia (as the ruthless Terry Benedict), Carl Reiner (the once-retired Saul Bloom), and Bernie Mac (Frank Catton, the inside man) are flawless; no-namers Eddie Jemison (as Livingston Dell, the computer expert) and Shaobo Quinn (The 'Amazing' Yen, grease man) are quite good; (then) new faces Scott Caan and Casey Affleck (the frontmen) are very good as well; and even Matt Damon (as the rookie Linus Caldwell), of whom I am not always a fan, is really good in these "Ocean's" films.

About the only blemish in Ocean's Eleven is the barefaced miscasting of Julia Roberts. While certainly another big name to add on the marquee, Roberts does not personify the Bess character at all. By the way that all of the others characters talk about her, one gets the impression that Bess is supposed to be irresistibly drop-dead gorgeous - a to-die-for treasure. While a generally pretty lady, Roberts' goofy charm and giraffe-like trotting just does not fit the bill for Bess.

While certainly popular (the three films grossed over a billion dollars worldwide), Steven Soderbergh's "Ocean's" trilogy is unbalanced as far as quality goes since this first Ocean's film is great, the second film, Ocean's Twelve (2004), is good and the third film, Ocean's Thirteen (2007), is on the average side. Reflecting on the film within the context of the series, Ocean's Eleven easily ends up at the top of the ladder. However, thanks to the enjoyable performances from the entire star-studded cast and the fantastic direction of Steven Soderbergh, Ocean's Eleven also stands alone as simply one of the all-time great heist films.

CBC Rating: 9/10

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