Ocean’s 11  is filled with A list stars riddling the cast which includes George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle and Andy Garcia led by Steven Soderbergh, who would later  go onto direct movies such as Contagion , Magic Mike and after a hiatus from directing returned with 2017’s Logan Lucky. In 2001 Steven Soderbergh was coming off a historical year, in which he became the only director to have two films nominated for best picture and best director in a calendar year, and Ocean’s Eleven represented a stylistic shift into  bigger budget film-making with huge A-list celebrities plastered throughout his films.

The movie follows ex-con Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and his eleven accomplices plan to rob three Las Vegas casinos simultaneously, in attempt to land a score with a grand total of $150 million dollars.

The movie succeeds under the direction of Soderbergh, as his visual style of directing leads him with a high usage of third-person vantage points and a variety of over-the-shoulder shots, coupled with  intricate montages that are an integral feature of the narrative of the film. Rather than a generic bank heist film, Soderbergh’s stylistic shift helps rejuvenate a forgotten sub genre of film and justify remaking the 1960 classic starring Frank Sinatra.

Soderbergh  puts emphasis and analyzes each character to the most finite detail, from the costume design to help characters differentiate each other up to the word choices characters use. Aided by David Holmes’  laid back, jazzy musical score helps elevate Philip Messina’s sets and real casino locations with Soderbergh’s elegant camerawork, taking you “backstage” helps add to the high-stakes at the Bellagio from tour rooms to corridors, capturing the feeling of Las Vegas.

Whenever a film manages to get so many great actors together, it’s extremely difficult to balance screentime for the actors and actresses and tell the narrative of the film, this film hits the perfect balance between the two. What is most impressive in regards to Soderbergh’s directing is that he allows time for all eleven thieves to shine throughout  a tight 116 minute run time.

Armed with the best looking cast of all time, Soderbergh finds enough screen time from Brad Pitt’s Rusty Ryan and George Clooney’s Danny Ocean who acts as the coaches of the criminal dream team, all the way to The Malloy brothers (Casey Affleck and Scott Caan) who play a minuscule roles in the film are allowed to shine in the scenes they are apart of. The chemistry between the ’11’ is instantaneous and makes you truly believe that their united by pulling off an impossible task; robbing three casino’s simultaneously.

Ocean’s 11 takes all the cliche’s of a bank heist film and turns it on it’s head. Yes the protagonists are in actuality criminals, but the film keeps it to a minimum with no guns, no gangster cliche’s for our antagonists and doesn’t rely on cheap movie tropes to momentarily entertain the audience but chooses to rely on Soderbergh’s pacing and a plot that takes unexpected twists and turns for the betterment of the story and not just to shock the audience.

Where the film falters is the 3rd act, as it tries too hard to outsmart itself rather than just continuing the story that they have perfectly executed throughout the previous 75 minutes. Unfortunately rather than closing the film with a sensible ending, the film takes another few minutes to wink at the audience to let them know their will be future sequels.

This is not your typical crime movie that riddled the late 90’s with over the top male machismo stars but consists of a combination of well mannered gentleman thieves, always focused on the goal at hand.

Ocean’s Eleven is the slickest of heist movies with a perfect pacing and an easy to follow but satisfying story and  a star-studded cast that culminates into a film that is exciting throughout the run time with hints of humor and visually brilliant in every single scene.  The execution of the heist film is quite entertaining and unpredictable, as is Don Cheadle’s english accent.

Grade: B+

Ananth Para
paramana@mcmaster.ca

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