Ocean’s Eleven

"We have 10. Do you think we need one more? You think we need one more. You think we need one more."

Ocean’s Eleven is an insignificant movie from a significant director and an unbelievable cast that, were its members not desperate to work with Hollywood ace Steven Soderbergh, would have cost the price of two Pearl Harbors to hire. It’s more of a novelty item than a film, really, and most of the fun comes from seeing just about all of Hollywood’s most well-known faces show up in the span of two hours. The casino heist it purports to be about is decently executed, but not particularly important. A movie about itself is rarely successful as a movie; this is one of the miraculous cases where exactly that happens. The only reason it happens is because Soderbergh knows what he is doing.

The script is loosely based on a 1960 Rat Pack movie of the same name. Daniel Ocean (played by Frank Sinatra in the original, and by Dapper Dan Man George Clooney here), just paroled, wants to go on One Last Heist before going clean (come to think of it, this is at least the third One Last Heist movie in 2001). He wants this to be a big one, something that will set him and his compatriots up for the rest of their lives and something that will become legendary. He is going to rob three casinoes on the same night by breaking into an impossible-to-break-into central vault.

There are obstacles. Who will join Danny Ocean in pulling off this damn-near-inconceivable robbery? (Answer: Brad Pitt, Don Cheadle, Matt Damon, Scott Caan, Casey Affleck, Bernie Mac, a Chinese acrobat and others). Who will front the cash for it? (Answer: Elliot Gould; that’s all you need to know). How will they crack the safe? (Answer: you’ll have to see for yourself). Whom will the obligatory love triangle involve? (Answer: Ocean, his ex (Julia Roberts), and the casino owner (Andy Garcia)).

In fact, if the film has one clear shortcoming, it’s that love triangle. It fails for a few reasons: 1) because it’s strange to see a movie pay mere lip service to any plotline involving Julia Roberts; 2) because it’s a rather pathetic attempt at “heart” in a movie that couldn’t get any more cynical; 3) because it goes absolutely nowhere. It’s the only part of Ocean’s Eleven that’s meant to be taken seriously, and as that, it’s absurd.

Ocean’s Eleven is the year’s fluffiest movie, more so than any incarnation of the romantic comedy or teeny-bopper gross-outs. As his follow-up to the heavy, epic, challenging drug war drama Traffic, Soderbergh has apparently chosen the most inconsequential project available, a snarky, sarcastic movie that would have been considered little had it not been for the gigantic cast. It’s probably his most purely conventional effort to date, though his undeniably deft handling of the inevitable action scenes don’t let us forget his complete mastery of the form.

George Clooney is sleepwalking here, all superficial suavity and biting one-liners. His performance is as effortless as his brilliant turn in last year’s O Brother, Where Art Thou?, but the charm and humanity have been sucked right out of it. And really, despite all of the names above the title, his is the only role of real note; everyone else just sort of shows up. Julia Roberts, especially, seems to be collecting a paycheck, or else hanging out with the man who helped her earn a best actress statuette in Erin Brockovich.

-- Eugene Novikov

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Screening Log

Snitch

Ric Roman Waugh, 2013

Score: C

Side Effects

Steven Soderbergh, 2013

Score: C+

10 Years

Jamie Linden, 2012

Score: B-

The Place Beyond the Pines

Derek Cianfrance, 2013

Score: B+

Warm Bodies

Jonathan Levine, 2013

Score: C

Beautiful Creatures

Richard LaGravanese, 2013

Score: B-

The Window

Ted Tetzlaff, 1949

Score: B+

The Chase

Arthur Ripley, 1946

Score: B

Street of Chance

Jack Hively, 1942

Score: C

The Taste of Money

Im Sang-Soo, 2013

Score: C+

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