Hot Damn! If youíve read enough of me to trust my reviews implicitly, stop reading and go see OCEANíS 11 now!
OK. Now that the dust has cleared from that stampede, let me tell you about Steven Soderberghís latest effort, a star-studded ensemble film loosely based on
1960ís OCEANíS 11, the original ratpack film starring Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., etc. For Soderbergh fans, this will feel like a continuation of the last
Soderbergh-Clooney pairing, OUT OF SIGHT, albeit with competent criminals. That means a funny, character-driven caper flick with heart. If that sounds like a
contradiction in terms, itís because it usually is. The caper genre still hasnít come back from its heyday in the í60s and í70s, so it still holds a lot of associations
with bad acting, terrifically twisted plots with holes big enough to drive tanks through, and lots of fun for those willing to overlook such trifles.
Tolerance for bad capers has long since ebbed, and OCEANíS 11 takes the crown in the new crop of high-value capers, overshadowing the flawed JACKIE
BROWN and the aforementioned OUT OF SIGHT by giving us what we really want: a team movie where every team member is not only portrayed well by the
actors, but has qualities that make him real for the audience. (SNATCH disqualifies itself by putting the caper at the beginning of the film and spending the rest of
the time trying to clean it up. Great movie, subtly different genre.)
OCEANíS 11 could easily have been a Clooney-Pitt buddy picture, with everyone else a cardboard cut-out for them to play off of. It worked for LETHAL
WEAPON, more than once, and audiences apparently loved it. Instead, Danny Ocean leads without dominating, charms without annoying (except for
Clooney-haters, who might as well stay home for this one), and dreams big enough dreams that we end up cheering for the upscale criminal who steals from Terry
Benedict (Garcia), the corporate criminal everybody hates because ďThe House always winsĒ in casinos, not to mention heís dating Oceanís ex-wife Tess
Rusty Ryan (Pitt), on the other hand, has almost no character at all. The devil-may-care detail man, an odd combination from the start, Ryan is the reason to
Oceanís rhyme, and Pitt pulls off a quiet, steady performance that provides the calm center in the storm of characters he recruits for the job.
The remaining nine all do an excellent job, but kudos go to Cheadle as Basher the munitions expert, who pulls off a convincing British accent with SNATCH-like
dialogue that had me rolling. Watching semi-retired actor/director Carl Reiner play semi-retired con man Saul Bloom is a treat, and Matt Damonís willingness to
take on the small role of Linus, the ambitious young pickpocket, and do it so well is a joy to behold. As for the rest, they each get a moment when both the
character and the actor get to shine.
Beyond the eleven, Benedict the ruthless casino owner could easily have been overplayed by Garcia, but at those moments when his anger boils to SCARFACE
levels, he maintains rigid control, taking what could have been a raving maniac to the deeper evil of heartless businessman. In contrast to the men, Tessís main job
is to stand around and look glamorous for most of the film, be confused in the middle, and suddenly find emotions at the end. While I see what Soderbergh was
going for, showing that Tess isnít fully alive while dating Benedict, I found her unsympathetic in the role and wouldnít have cared for her at all if not for Oceanís
Does the big caper work on film? Yes it does. Soderbergh shows or tells us just enough that weíre in on most of the scam, while obscuring enough details to keep
us surprised and on our toes. Nothing beats the fun of watching the pieces fall into place, and OCEANíS 11 takes full advantage of the modern casinoís elaborate
security systems to show us the action from the point of view of several cameras. Soderbergh also acted as cinematographer on this film, as he did on TRAFFIC,
so his command of his vision was complete. To him goes all of the glory, though I doubt heíll get an Oscar againónot serious enough to make the Academy
Finally, although the action is fast and furious, including one fabulous contraption thatís straight out of Warner Bros.í cartoon division, the gunplay and bloodshed is
minimal. The Eleven are thieves, not killers, and itís nice to see the distinction play itself out. So, now you know. See OCEANíS 11 and get your friends and
relatives to come, too. We need to reward the film industry when it gives us something this good, so they know they should do it again Ö and again Ö and again.