..

OCEAN'S ELEVEN
Widescreen

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Don Cheadle, Elliott Gould, Bernie Mac, Carl Reiner
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 117 Minutes
Release Date: May 7, 2002

“Mr. Ocean, what we’re trying to find out is…was there a reason you chose to commit this crime, or was there a reason you simply got caught this time?

“My wife left me, I was upset, I got into a self destructive pattern.”

“If released, is it likely you’d fall back into a similar pattern?”

“She already left me once, I don’t think she’d do it again just for kicks.”

Film ****

Ocean’s Eleven is like the ultimate quality recipe, complete with all the right ingredients mixed in to a perfect finish. With an all-star cast to end every all-star casts, including no less than George Clooney, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, Andy Garcia and Julia Roberts, and the genius of director Steven Soderbergh helming this project, this adds up to not only one of the most enjoyable and entertaining films I’ve had the pleasure of seeing, but simply one of the most slick and cool as well. It’s rare that you find a film that is a triumph of both style and substance, which director Soderbergh is both a master of, but Ocean’s Eleven is such a triumph.

This movie could very much be considered a day in the park for Soderbergh, who hit big time acclaim the previous year with his Oscar-winning Traffic, for which he took home a much deserving award for best director. Ocean’s Eleven represents a good, clean, harmless popcorn movie, and is mostly noted for being a remake the infamous 1960s Rat Pack movie of the same name, which was better known for its off-camera antics than the actual film. Headlining the film’s massive cast is that of the super suave George Clooney, whose very presence and performance epitomizes slick and cool. Clooney is Danny Ocean, a con man fresh out of jail whose looking right away to put together an elaborate score, which will take at least a dozen men capable of doing a combination of cons. He soon looks up his longtime fence, Rusty (Brad Pitt), proposes the big time job, which is the knocking over of three Las Vegas casinos, resulting in the possible take of $150 million.

Ocean and Rusty then set out to put together a crew that equals that of eleven. These eager participants are inside man Frank Canton (the ever-so hysterical Bernie Mac), demolitions expert Bashir Tarr (Don Cheadle, throwing in a mighty British accent), veteran con artist Saul Bloom (Carl Reiner), hapless bankroller Rueben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould), fighting brothers Virgil and Turk Malloy (Casey Affleck and Scott Caan), electronics expert Livingston Dell (Eddie Jemison), acrobatic gymnast Yen (Shaobo Qin), and last but not least, rookie pickpocket Linus Caldwell (Matt Damon), who’s the son of a former acquaintance of Danny’s.

The casinos that Danny has targeted are the Mirage, the Bellagio, and the MGM Grand, which are all owned by ruthless tycoon Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), and they also carry a level of security so elaborate, it makes the CIA vault Tom Cruise broke into in Mission: Impossible look like a flat out picnic. Ocean has a perfectly understandable motivation for choosing these casinos. Benedict is now in cahoots with Danny’s ex-wife, Tess (Julia Roberts). It is clear that Ocean has constructed this big score not just to make a big pay day, but to possibly take back the woman he loves, who left him because of his refusal to quit the business of stealing, and lying, too.

The fun in Ocean’s Eleven is consistent throughout its entire running time and does not let up for a single second. What Soderbergh demonstrates here is that he is perfectly capable of creating brilliance even in the case of a mainstream popcorn movie. The screenplay by Ted Griffin is laced with doses of memorable dialogue, especially in the scenes between Clooney and Roberts, who for my money, could be the next Bogey and Bacall. What I also appreciate is that each cast member in this massive cast is given a standout moment, even Bernie Mac, a stand up personality I’ve strongly admired ever since watching The Original Kings of Comedy. Mac’s big moment late in the movie between him and Matt Damon is quite simply one of funniest movie moments in recent memory.

Then there’s the heist scene, and I can seriously say that in all of the movies I saw in 2001, none contained an individual sequence that was more fun to experience. I won’t go so far as to reveal any specific details of the occurrences in the heist, because those moments simply have to be seen to be appreciated. It may be hard for some viewers to buy the coincidences during the coarse of the heist, but I went along with it and found it all mesmerizing and perfect. All of the pieces fall into place, creating a picture perfect finish that in my opinion, will leave the viewer very satisfied.

Memento was my pick for best film of last year, but Ocean’s Eleven has long been my number two pick. You don’t always come across such a slick, stylish, funny, cool, and remarkable piece of mainstream fare, but from my perspective, Ocean’s Eleven proves that even the most fun of movies can end up as pure movie classics. Kudos to Steven Soderbergh, George Clooney and the most incredible ensemble cast ever put together in a single movie.

Video ****

A purely glowing look of a disc that is as razor sharp as the dialogue. Soderbergh, like in most of his films, has given this film a distinctive look, with some settings turning up steel blue, and some turn up with a slight saturation (intended, as always), but for the most part Soderbergh has applied to this film an overall ordinary use of imagery when compared to the likes of Traffic, but his knack for style and atmosphere is as present as ever, and this presentation from Warner elevates it even further with one of their grandest looking discs to date.

Audio ****

Matching to the style and the look of the film is a stunning presence of audio, which is performed to perfection with a most lively 5.1 audio mix provided by Warner Bros. Music is perhaps the highlight of the presentation. David Holmes, who also did the music score to Soderbergh’s Out of Sight, applies an icy cool array of jazzy beats, which is perfectly blended along with clearly rendered dialogue and accompanying background noise. A most splendid audio job from the WB!

Features ****

In the past, I’ve probably been guilty of giving Warner too much credit in the extras area, but for Ocean’s Eleven, they really deserve a pat on the back, as features-wise, this is one of their most triumphant discs to date. Included are two separate commentary tracks; one with Steven Soderbergh and screenwriter Ted Griffin, and one with stars Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, and Andy Garcia. The latter, especially, is a really good listen as these noted leading men don’t hesitate in poking occasional fun at the movie, most particularly that of George Clooney, as Pitt occasionally pops up with reasons why Clooney didn’t want to do the commentary, all of which are very humorous. Also included are two documentaries, “The Making of Ocean’s 11” and “The Look of the Con”, 3 theatrical trailers, and some nice DVD-Rom content.

Summary:

Ocean’s Eleven is a true steal of a movie! A memorable and striking cast pulls off one of the most exhilarating capers ever put together in this brilliantly directed masterpiece.