Ocean's Eleven


Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Written by:Ted Griffin
Starring: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Julia Roberts, Elliott Gould, Carl Reiner, Scott Caan, Bernie Mac, Casey Affleck
Released: January 10, 2002
Grade: B+

What if we went down the other road? With the current cinematic climate lacking creativity, director Steven Soderbergh has rolled the dice, gambled, and come out a winner with Ocean’s Eleven.  When producing a remake, studios predictably choose classic films to guarantee themselves financial success (and job security).  Does the remake ever live up to the original?  No.  And so Soderbergh has broken convention. What if we made a remake of a stinker?

Made in 1960, the original Ocean’s Eleven was neither well received nor reviewed.  Starring Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Dean Martin and Joey Bishop, the film’s production was secondary to the cast spending time wining, dining and gambling in Las Vegas.  The film was more fun for the cast than for the audience.

Knowing the troubles that plagued the 60s version, Soderbergh’s reputation is the film’s greatest asset.  For the opportunity to work with one of the world’s leading directors, the talented cast all took pay cuts.  A film with George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia and Julia Roberts would ordinarily cost $100m in wages and would never get off the ground.  Thanks to Soderbergh, we’re seeing them all on screen at the same time.

The premise is nothing new.  Just hours after being released from a four year stint in prison, thief Danny Ocean (Clooney) is back at work.  Speaking with old friend Dusty Ryan (Pitt), the two are masterminding an impossible robbery – to rob three of the biggest casinos in Las Vegas on the same night.  Assembling a team of eleven experts, they’re all prepared to take the punt and $150m split eleven ways is an attractive lure.

If a film could be “cool” then Ocean’s Eleven is it. The actors, the locale and the plot give it a light-hearted seriousness.  Clooney and Pitt share some delicious dialogue and soak up some fantastic one-liners (many which were improvised).  Andy Garcia was the film’s best in my eyes.  As the casino owner (i.e. the “bad guy”), he doesn’t overplay the character and his simple cocky demeanour is enough to have us root for those against him.

The only part that disappoints is the impracticability of the robbery.  It seems too easy and I preferred the more indepth pre-robbery planning that we saw in The Score, released last year.  It’s too hard to believe that one could pull off much a massive robbery so simply today.  Then again, maybe I’m taking thinks a little too seriously.

Steven Soderbergh won the Academy Award last year for his direction of Traffic (he was also nominated for Erin Brockovich).  Many consider his follow up selection as slightly bizarre.  I believe it to be a great chance to unwind and escape the pressure that will follow much of his future career. Soderbergh has immaculately captured the beauty of Vegas and shot much of the film in an actual casino (the Bellagio).  I’m sure they’ll appreciate the advertising but I hope the casino’s actual security doesn’t mimic that of the film.  If so, I’m getting ten men together.  Are you in?