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June 6, 2018

Ocean's Eleven (2001) --- "Ready To Win Big? 3 Casinos. 11 Guys. 150 Million Bucks. Are You In Or Out?"

Plot Summary
Dapper Danny Ocean (George Clooney) is a man of action. Less than 24 hours into his parole from a New Jersey penitentiary, the wry, charismatic thief is already rolling out his next plan. Following three rules: Don't hurt anybody, don't steal from anyone who doesn't deserve it, and play the game like you've got nothing to lose. Danny orchestrates the most sophisticated, elaborate casino heist in history. (1)

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Hello, Movie Buffs! 
     It can be tough to make a film with a lot of big-name stars and not let the story fall flat but that was not the case for Ocean’s Eleven (2001). Director Steven Soderbergh (Erin Brockovich; Solaris) manages to tell a funny, fast-paced, and clever story that helps elevate the character’s performances. In addition, director Soderbergh took a risk in making a reboot of the original 1960 Ocean’s 11 starring Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and many more. And while I have not had the privilege of seeing the original films I do know that when you an original featuring iconic actors of all time and you make a reboot film then the stakes are at an all-time high. And yet Soderbergh makes a pretty entertaining heist film that stands on its own.

     Ocean’s Eleven (2001) has a great story and an even better script. The lines were witty and believable, while the story was engaging and filled with twists and last minute details that you have to watch closely or you’ll miss crucial information. I have seen my number of heist films and none of them are like this one and no matter how many time I watch it, I always end up catching new details that I didn’t notice before. The story has a knack for playing with the small details and creating great relationships with the characters that balance between fun and seriousness. The film is paced smoothly in a way that is fast but also manages to take its time in certain scenes. This allows for the planning of the heist to feel real and gives the film room to breathe.
     This film is not artistic like Phantom Thread (2018) or even war-torn like Hacksaw Ridge (2017) but the cinematography is extraordinary nonetheless. Director Soderbergh is one of the few directors I know that also likes to do his own cinematography (as Peter Andrews); some others are James Cameron, Joel Coen, and Ethan Coen. The film takes place in Las Vegas and so audiences get that feeling through the dim lighting and almost documentary kind of feel. In addition to the cinematography, the music score by David Holmes (Ocean’s Twelve; Hunger) is outstanding with a jazzy style that matches the theme of the entire film from the cinematography to the characters’ dialogue.
     The acting was perfect. George Clooney (Money Monster) represented Danny Oceans quite well his delivery of delivered deadpan lines of humor is a highlight of the film. Brad Pitt (Deadpool 2) did excellent as best friend Rusty who sometimes steals the scene from Clooney’s character. The great chemistry between Clooney’s and Pitt’s characters helps set the premise for how the rest of the characters are supposed to be; intelligent and suave with clever moments of humor. The rest of the Ocean’s team did an excellent job. Bernie Mac (Old Dogs) was funny and yet underappreciated as Frank, Matt Damon (Downsizing) is adorable as the rookie, and Carl Reiner (Ocean’s 8) is easily underestimated as the old guy. Shaoboo Qin (Ocean’s Thirteen) as Yen and Eddie Jemison (iZombie) as Livingston also prove their worth in few small scenes. Elliott Gould (Romancing Brazil) pulls off the Hugh Heffner millionaire-vibe. Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea) and Scott Caan (Hawaii 5-0) are believable as the bickering brothers tasked with being masters of disguise and occasional drivers. Don Cheadle (Infinity War) is funny as British bomber Basher Tarr despite the actor growing up in Missouri and Colorado. Andy Garcia (Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again) as the wealthy casino owner is evil. I can see parts of his Vincent Mancini role from The Godfather part 3 (1990) in this role. Julia Roberts (Erin Brockovich; Wonder) is wonderful as Danny's bitter ex-wife Tess, you can almost feel the anger she has for Danny when she talks to him. But at the same time, you can also see that there is still a small part of her that loves and misses him.

     Overall, Ocean's Eleven (2001) in an entertaining heist film that supposed to be fun and clever rather than a masterpiece. The story does not offer deep, thought-provoking moments but it is believable with enough hidden details and twists to make it exciting. The cinematography was extraordinary with great use of dim lighting that gives the film an almost retro documentary feel. The acting is excellent in that it manages to entertain us rather than steal the spotlight from the film’s story, and the chemistry between all the characters is great. I highly recommended this film to anyone who is into heist films and/or is a fan of the original 1960’s version.

"All right, you proved your point. You broke into my vault. Congratulations, you're a dead man."
- Terry [to Rusty over the phone]

Final Vote
Worth Seeing:  8 of 10 stars
Worth Buying:  8 of 10 stars

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Now You See Me 2 (2016)
Ocean's Eight (2018)
Ocean's Twelve (2004)
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