Movie Review: Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

Just wait for the Ocean's 1-10 prequels.

Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

Starring: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Don Cheadle, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Carl Reiner, Elliott Gould, Edward Jemison, Bernie Mac, Shaobo Qin

Directed by: Steven Soderbergh

My wife and I are headed to Las Vegas tomorrow, for our third trip there together (my fourth). As has become tradition, we dealt with our anticipation by watching one of my favourite movies of all-time, Ocean’s Eleven (which is a far better way to look forward to the trip then, say, Leaving Las Vegas).

When I state in the opening paragraph that a movie is an all-time favourite, it pretty much signals that I’ll be writing less of a “review” and more of a “listing of why this movie rules”. Of course, saying something is one of my favourites is a review in its itself, since I don’t generally like crap (and, well, if you think I do, you probably don’t spend a lot of time reading my reviews). And also? This movie rules.

Ocean’s Eleven is a spirited heist flick that exudes cool from every pore, pure entertainment with limitless replay value that delivers in every area. It’s loaded with sex appeal, deft comic timing, action, tense schemes, and tight plotting, all while delivering old Hollywood charm reminiscent of the Rat Pack (which is fitting, as it is a remake of the Rat Pack’s 1960 movie). Steven Soderbergh stepped away from his usual artistic experiments to create a populist movie that trades on the star power of its performers, using storytelling techniques honed in Out of Sight and Traffic, and delivered a movie that is as high in quality as it is in entertainment value.

The movie and the story revolve around star George Clooney, whose famed suaveness sets the tone for the rest of the cast just as his character Danny Ocean sets the tone for his crew of con men who plot to rob three Las Vegas casinos owned by Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia). Clooney’s charm is used to its full extent here, passed on to co-stars Brad Pitt (who delivers a fantastic comedic performance that is centred around constant eating) and Matt Damon (who plays second fiddle to Clooney and Pitt, displaying the selflessness that makes him one of the most underrated actors working today).

It’s unusual for a movie this tightly plotted to be such an actor’s showcase, and its a credit to Soderbergh and screenwriter Ted Griffin (who has created an endlessly quotable movie) that they let the actors play around while still keeping the action tight. I’ve seen the movie dozens of times, and still get chuckles when Pitt’s Rusty Ryan teaches young actors how to play poker (Topher Grace steals the scene, and is the reason why I will ironically say “what up dog” to friends on occasion), or when the Malloy brothers (Casey Affleck and Scott Caan) bicker over balloons (or trucks), or when Elliott Gould‘s Reuben Tishkoff thanks Danny and Rusty for “the thing with the guy in the place” that he’ll never forget, or several other moments that I’ll stop listing now. Just a fantastic movie, one that I never tire of, that exudes cool and mystique and has me primed for my vacation.


Related Reviews:
Confidence (2003)
Ocean’s Twelve (2004)
Out of Sight (1998)

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