Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Short Cut Movie Review From My Collection: Ocean's 11

Short Cut Movie Review is normally less than 400 words, but in some cases may go slightly over. This is my attempt to keep writing about as many films as I see without getting bogged down with trying to find more to say. They are meant to be brief snapshots of my reaction to a movie without too much depth.

I’m a total sucker for heist films. I’ve said it here before. I love the group of thieves each with some specialized skill, the plan, the execution, and the hitch, even though these are all generally tired clichés in the subgenre. Steven Soderbergh’s updating of Ocean’s 11, from a screenplay by Ted Griffin, is a slickly produced genre film that is far better than it has any right to be.

The original featured the epitome of 1960s cool, the Rat Pack, with Frank and Dean at the fore. Forty years later, the update features contemporary Hollywood’s biggest male stars and embodiment of suavity: George Clooney and Brad Pitt. Clooney is Danny Ocean, the brains behind the caper and plan to rob three Las Vegas casinos of $160 million. His closest confidante is Pitt’s Rusty. They’re bankroll is supplied by a fading Vegas hotel magnate played by Elliott Gould and they put together an ensemble of crooks and villains that includes Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Don Cheadle, Matt Damon, Bernie Mac, and Carl Reiner.

Griffin’s screenplay pulls a con of its own while the crew of 11 is busy conning everyone from security guards up to the casinos’ owner Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) and his girlfriend, Tess (Julia Roberts) who, as complications would have it, is Danny’s ex-wife. Soderbergh fills in some clues here and there with oddly disorienting close-up shots of apparently meaningless objects that later turn out to have grand significance. You can’t possibly guess at what the actual plan is while it’s happening, which is a bit unfair, I think. Griffin deliberately makes it oblique. When one thief asks if they’re simply going to walk out the front door with $160 million, Danny tells him that’s right. That is what they do, but how they get there is never revealed in the planning scenes. The construction of a replica of the vault we might believe is for practice, but Danny’s response to that question is, “Something like that.”

There’s no way we can possibly anticipate what it’s real use was before the big reveal. But that’s all part of the charm and has since become a signature move in many of Soderbergh’s films – he takes a page out of the David Mamet book of filmmaking and cons the audience. It’s all great fun while it’s happening and there’s some really great camaraderie between the members of the gang. This is a film I can keep watching and always be entertained.

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