Ocean’s Eleven



USA 2001
director : Steven Soderbergh
script : Ted Griffin (based on screenplay by Harry Brown, Charles Lederer, and a story by George Clayton Johnson, Jack Golden Russell)
cinematography : “Peter Andrews” (i.e. Soderbergh)
editing : Stephen Mirrione
music : David Holmes
lead actors : George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Andy Garcia
with : Matt Damon, Elliott Gould, Don Cheadle, Carl Reiner, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Eddie Jemison, Bernie Mac, Shaobo Qin
116 minutes

Nobody remembers much about the original Ocean’s Eleven from 1960, except the title and vague images of Sinatra’s gin-sozzled Rat Pack wisecracking their way around Vegas. Forty years on, the remake ditches everything bar the basic idea: ex-con Danny Ocean (Clooney) plans to rob three casinos owned by suave hotelier Terry Benedict (Garcia) on the night of a Lennox Lewis title fight. With the promise of a $150m haul, he recruits a ten-strong team including young bucks Pitt and Damon and older hands like Gould and unconvincing ‘cockernee’ Cheadle. His motivation isn’t entirely financial – Benedict hooked up with Danny’s estranged wife Tess (Roberts) while he was in the slammer, and what could be sweeter than stealing his girl back along with all that cash?

But don’t worry about the plot – nobody else in Ocean’s Eleven seems to. It’s an elaborate excuse for everybody to swan around sin city in snazzy suits, dispensing snazzy one-liners while Soderbergh’s hand-held camera gives everything a rough-edged, fast-and-loose glamour. But while he’s clearly blowing off a bit of steam after the Oscar-laden double-whammy of Erin Brockovich and Traffic, the director is actually much more comfortable back on the unpretentious underworld turf he last explored in The Limey and Out of Sight. It turns out to be as much Clooney’s movie as Soderbergh’s – after persuading the big names to take hefty cuts in salary, he gives a masterclass in old-school Movie Star charisma and steals the whole thing out from under them.

29th January, 2002
(seen Jan-26-02, Cineworld Milton Keynes)

by Neil Young
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