Based on the 1960 film version that was scribed by Harry Brown and Charles Lederer with story credit by George Clayton Johnson and Jack Golden Russell, Ocean’s 11 is the story of eleven men who plan to rob three casinos in one entire night as they’re owned by the same man. Directed by Steven Soderbergh and screenplay by Ted Griffin, the film is a modern update on the original 1960s Rat Pack film with a new edge. Starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Elliott Gould, Carl Reiner, Casey Affleck, Scott Cahn, Bernie Mac, Eddie Jemison, Shaobo Qin, with Andy Garcia and Julia Roberts. Ocean’s 11 is a fun heist film from Steven Soderbergh.
After being released on parole for various theft crimes, Danny Ocean (George Clooney) decides to organize another theft as he meets up with old friend Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt). The plan is to rob a trio of casinos in one night as the money is stored the vault of one of those casinos. Pitching the idea to a former casino owner in Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould), Tishkoff agrees to fund the operation as Ocean and Ryan began to recruit and assemble their team. With Tishkoff and Ocean’s con friend Frank Catton (Bernie Mac) on board, joining the team are mechanics Virgil and Turk Malloy (Casey Affleck and Scott Caan, respectively), electronics surveillance expert Livingston Dell (Eddie Jemison), acrobat Yen (Shaobo Qin), explosives expert Basher Tarr (Don Cheadle), old-school con man Saul Bloom (Carl Reiner), and a young thief in Linus Caldwell (Matt Damon).
The team scout the Bellagio casino as a big boxing fight is coming as the casino is owned by Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) who also owns the other two planned for the robbery. With Linus and Rusty also watching over Benedict, Rusty realizes that Danny’s ex-wife Tess (Julia Roberts) is dating Benedict which complicates everything as Rusty wonders about Danny’s true motives for the robbery. With planning still underway including re-creating the vault for practice, things become complicated when Yen gets injured in a theft for a device Basher needs to black out the city for a small amount of time. Danny also sits out due to his feelings for Tess as Rusty takes over as he and the team decide to play roles to get into the casino and its vaults while Livingston watches everything he sees.
On the night of the heist, Danny makes a final plea to Tess before he’s taken away by Benedict’s men while Frank, Linus, Rusty, and Saul poses as different people for the con game with Virgil and Turk assisting them. Things go underway as Danny makes a last-minute assist with a bit of help as he and the gang make the robbery in grand style.
The film is essentially a heist film set in Las Vegas as eleven guys decide to steal more than a $150 million in one night just so they can pull off the impossible. Notably as it involves three casinos and an owner who will do more than put the thieves in jail. Amidst this heist is its leader who has just been paroled and is risking it just so he can claim his ex-wife back from a guy he knows is far more dangerous. The script by Ted Griffin is pretty loose in terms of its storytelling as he creates some wonderful scenes about the set-up of the heist and how the team is assembled. It’s a script that is filled with lots of humor and action while not taking itself very seriously.
Steven Soderbergh’s direction definitely is geared towards style as he creates dazzling compositions and montages to play up the assembling of the team as well as the set-up into the heist. While most of the film is about the set-up of the heist for the first two acts, Soderbergh does allow the film to be quite playful in the way the actors interact and play their con roles. Soderbergh also chooses to play up the film’s romantic moments in an understated tone involving Danny and Tess while keeping the compositions straightforward. Serving as cinematographer under his Peter Andrews alias, the film has a look that is quite stylish to play up to the glitz of Las Vegas from its nighttime and interior lighting to the sunny look of that city in the day. Soderbergh creates a truly crafty and ravishing film that is very funny and exciting for the heist genre.
Editor Stephen Mirrione does a fantastic job with the editing to play up the film‘s sense of style by utilizing rhythmic jump-cuts as well as multiple split-screens to play up some of the montages displayed in the film. Production designer Phillip Messina, with set decorator Kristen Toscano Messina and art director Keith P. Cunningham, does excellent work in the set pieces created such as the bar that Rusty manages to Reuben‘s home and the look of Benedict‘s safe. Costume designer Jeffrey Kurland does some wonderful work in the costumes from the dresses and gowns that Tess wears to the stylish suits that the men wear including the ones for the actual job they do.
Sound editor Larry Blake does a brilliant job with the sound work to capture the raucous world of Las Vegas from the boxing scene to the sounds of what goes in for the actual heist including chaos that occurs in the blackout as the heist is well underway. The film’s score by David Holmes is superb for its playful mix of jazz and electronic music that is perfect for the film’s humor and visual style in relation to the world that is Las Vegas. Particularly as the soundtrack plays to a wide variety of music from the likes of Elvis Presley, Perry Como, Handsome Boy Modeling School with De La Soul, Quincy Jones, Liberace, and classical pieces from Claude Debussy.
The casting by Debra Zane is extraordinary for the ensemble that is created along with the slew of cameo appearances made for the film. Among these cameos include Shane West, Barry Watson, Holly Marie Combs, Topher Grace, and Joshua Jackson as Rusty’s poker pupils. Other cameos include the film’s producer Jerry Weintraub as a high-roller poker player, director Steven Soderbergh as one of Basher’s bombing associates, boxers Lennox Lewis and Wladimir Klitschko, Wayne Newton, Siegfried and Roy, and from the original 1960 film, Angie Dickinson and Henry Silva.
In the roles of the various players that forms the heist team, there are definitely some very funny performances from Eddie Jemison as the nervous Livingston Dell, Bernie Mac as the smooth con artist Frank Catton, Shaobo Qin as the Asian acrobatic Yen, Carl Reiner as the old-school yet multiple-accent portraying Saul, and Elliott Gould as the old-school casino owner Ruben Tishkoff. Casey Affleck and Scott Caan are very good as in their respective roles as the bickering brothers Virgil and Turk Malloy while Don Cheadle is brilliant by sporting a Cockney accent as the witty explosive expert Basher. Andy Garcia is excellent as the suave yet vicious casino owner Terry Benedict while Julia Roberts is terrific as Danny’s ex-wife Tess.
Matt Damon is wonderful as the young thief Linus who tries to find his footing as part of the team as well as hoping to break out of his father’s shadow. Brad Pitt is great as the cool Rusty who always try to keep everyone ground while always eating something on the job. George Clooney is superb as the team’s leader Danny Ocean as Clooney brings his usual charm and swagger into the character while also being the kind of guy who can get the job done.
Ocean’s 11 is an entertaining and witty heist film from Steven Soderbergh. Armed with a great ensemble cast and a visual style that is dazzling to watch, it’s a film that aims to just entertain and give the audience a good time. Notably as it’s one of Soderbergh’s more accessible films proving that he can do anything while give the film buffs something to be enamored by. In the end, Ocean’s 11 is a sensational heist film from Steven Soderbergh.
Steven Soderbergh Films: sex, lies, & videotape - Kafka - King of the Hill - The Underneath - Gray’s Anatomy - Schizopolis - Out of Sight - The Limey - Erin Brockovich - Traffic - Full Frontal - Solaris (2002 film) - Eros-Equilibrium - Ocean’s 12 - Bubble - The Good German - Ocean’s 13 - Che - The Girlfriend Experience - The Informant! - And Everything is Going Fine - Contagion - Haywire - Magic Mike - Side Effects - Behind the Candelabra - Logan Lucky - (Unsane) - (High Flying Bird)
The Auteurs #39: Steven Soderbergh Pt. 1 - Pt. 2
Related: Ocean's 8
The Auteurs #39: Steven Soderbergh Pt. 1 - Pt. 2
Related: Ocean's 8
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