Retro Review: Ocean’s 11

Written: December 10, 2001

Slick, stylish and star heavy are some of the words that will spring forth from the mouths of movie-goers when they venture to see “Ocean’s Eleven”, the latest film from Academy Award winning director Steven Soderbergh.

Way back in 1960, “Ocean’s Eleven” became a staple film of the infamous “Rat Pack” which was headed by old blue eyes himself, Frank Sinatra. The 1960’s version was darker, seedier and oozed with the charisma of Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and Peter Lawford.

The plot of the 1960’s version involved a group of war buddies getting together to rob five Las Vegas casinos in a single night. What was the most memorable about the film besides the star-power was the film’s twist ending. It was a landmark film for the careers of Sinatra and Martin but what kind of panache and attraction did it have to be remade some 31 years later.

Director Steven Soderbergh’s version of the popular 1960’s film is a lot flashier, decadent and arrogant than his predecessor but the update and transformation envelopes and reflects more of what movies of today are really like. Soderbergh scales back the actual heist to three casinos instead of five and introduces a new dimension for the central character, Danny Ocean (now played by George Clooney).

Soderbergh then cleverly casts other big name stars in key positions to create his own “Rat Pack” if you will. Maybe we can call them the “Soder Pack”. Among the “Soder Pack” are Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, Don Cheadle, Elliot Gould, Carl Reiner, Casey Affleck and Scott Caan. Three of the four top roles belong to the Soderbergh film alumni, which include Clooney, Roberts and Cheadle.

Soderbergh’s telling of this heist tale is brilliantly executed as he unravels the hidden gem within each cast member. He never gives away too much of how the heist will be executed which is key in developing a heist film. Then before we know it we are into the actual heist itself. I liked the interlaced humor, tongue-in-cheek arrogance and Soderbergh’s choice of a musical score. If the actor’s portrayals didn’t pay homage to the 1960’s version the musical score sure does.

The small problems I had with the 2001 Ocean’s Eleven lie in the film’s ending and the long musical montage that commences prior to the film’s epilogue. The original film had more surprises in the finale then I felt the update did. Once the ending starts to unravel you can predict how it will come out from pretty early on. I was waiting for another twist to make the film more memorable.

I do have to say that this film is the most stylish film of the year and as it always is with Soderbergh films, brilliantly executed.

Also as it always is with ensemble casts it is hard to judge who was the most suave and who had the stand out performance. My favorite in the film was Brad Pitt, if I did have to choose.

“Ocean’s Eleven” is a great little escape film for the holidays and it’s a film for everyone.

(4 of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.

Side Note: Mark Wahlberg was supposed to play the Matt Damon or Brad Pitt character. If you know could you email me? Wahlberg couldn’t make the shoot due to delays on “Planet of the Apes”. Wahlberg’s participation in this project would have been his third collaboration with Clooney.

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