Wayback Wednesday: Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

Heist movies are the reason I have trust issues.

George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts are arguably three of the biggest stars in the world. They’re acclaimed actors who have starred in some of the most famous movies of the last 30 years, delivering one fantastic performance after another. Still, I’ve admittedly never been a big fan of any of them. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t doubt how talented they are, I’ve just never particularly liked any of their movies. As I watch more of her old movies, my opinion on Roberts is shifting and I will always un-ironically have a blast watching Clooney in Batman & Robin (1997). The jury’s still out on Pitt. So choosing to review Ocean’s Eleven (2001), a movie that heavily features the three, seems like an odd choice for me. I just couldn’t help myself. Ocean’s Eleven is so good, it makes a strong case for my growing  appreciation for the trio.

Screen Shot 2019-11-11 at 10.52.31 PM
Credit: imdb.com / Warner Bros. Pictures

A remake of the 1960 movie of the same name, Ocean’s Eleven follows Danny Ocean, a recently paroled thief who plans to rob three casinos and get away with $150 million in cash. To do so, he assembles a crack team of 10 other thieves, all skilled in their own unique way.

Heist movies are always so much fun. Who doesn’t love seeing a collection of crafty criminals coming together to pull off a high-stakes job? Especially when you’re dealing with an all-star cast that includes the likes of Carl Reiner, Matt Damon, Casey Affleck and Elliott Gould! There’s even Don Cheadle doing an inexplicably terrible English accent! I love watching the carefully calculated brilliance of the plan, the thrilling action and the charisma of these unlikely allies as they work together. I mean, in what other kind of movie are you rooting for the criminals? I’m a firm believer that there should be more mainstream heist movies. The last one I saw was Widows (2018) this time last year and I’ve had a heist-shaped hole in my heart ever since. By the way, you can check out my review here. Look, if we can have at least six big-budget superhero movies come out in a year, can’t we at least have more well-written, beautifully shot, thrilling crime capers be released alongside them? More often than not, heist movies are fantastically made and Ocean’s Eleven is no exception.

Across the board, Ocean’s Eleven is an excellent movie. Much like Ocean himself, director Steven Soderbergh brings together a great behind-the-scenes crew that deliver a movie so great, it holds up almost 20 years later. Now, maybe this is an homage to the original movie, but the remake succeeds in perfectly emulating the tone and style of a 1960s crime thriller. Though certainly not a flat-out comedy, there’s still a sense of fun to Ocean’s Eleven that makes it a winning combination of charming crowd-pleaser and dramatic thriller. That unique blend was popular back in the 60s and Soderbergh flawlessly applies it to a film made during the turn of the millennium. To sum it up, this movie is slick. It effortlessly oozes style and coolness, making you wish you were one of Ocean’s chosen 11 just so you could be a part of this remarkable world. Part of what makes Ocean’s Eleven so remarkable is its phenomenally written script. Razor sharp wit and fast-paced when it comes to both dialogue and plot, it’s easy to become engrossed in this movie. It drew me in so much that I could barely tear my eyes away from the screen to take notes! Sure, I’ve seen the movie before, but the idea of missing even one moment of Ocean’s master plan unfold was just unbearable to me.

As Danny Ocean, George Clooney is the epitome of calm, cool and collected. Giving a truly terrific leading performance, he plays the suave mastermind so well, I’m almost convinced that Clooney is more than capable of really robbing three casinos. The best part about Clooney’s performance though is his astounding chemistry with the rest of the cast, particularly Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts. He and Pitt play together so well, it feels as if they’ve been scene partners all their lives. It’s so enjoyable to watch Pitt play Rusty, Ocean’s right-hand man. Again, if Clooney were a real thief, I would totally believe that Pitt helped him pull off his schemes. Dastardly and dashing, I could have watched an entire movie made of just scenes between the two. Even from their first scene together, Clooney and Roberts light up the screen with their electric chemistry. They both give great performances, subtle yet immensely powerful, with intrigue dripping on every word they speak. You really get the sense of their backstory and their relationship and understand why Ocean is so intent on winning Tess, his ex-wife, back.

Of course, I’m proud to say that Clooney, Pitt and Roberts are not the only ones giving note-worthy performances in Ocean’s Eleven. As hotelier Terry Benedict, Andy Garcia is exactly the type of smarmy, cold villain that you can’t help but hope gets robbed of hundred of millions of dollars. I’m always impressed when an actor isn’t just able to play “evil,” but truly “loathsome.” You know, someone just so repulsive and awful that you’d love to see them lose. Garcia nails this completely. Oh my God, you know who is high-key the best part of this movie? Bernie Mac! I can’t tell you how much I miss Bernie Mac! Honestly, it wasn’t until re-watching this that I realized how strongly I wished he were still in movies today. His beaming charisma and comedic timing are a real highlight of the movie, as are Casey Affleck and Scott Caan. I swear, the amount of times I laughed at these two randomly showing up disguised as everything from tourists to waiters to bodyguards….too many to count.

I definitely saw Ocean’s Eight (2018) in theatres last year and if I’m correct, I think I once saw Ocean’s Thirteen (2007) when I was in elementary school. It’s safe to say that having now re-visited Ocean’s Eleven in all of is glory, I have an overwhelming urge to re-visit those movies and finally see Ocean’s Twelve (2004). What the Hell, maybe I’ll even track down the original as well. If it’s been a while since you yourself has watched an entry in the franchise, or you’re wrestling with your own heist-shaped hole in your heart, I strongly recommend watching Ocean’s Eleven. It should be a crime to enjoy a movie this much.

Are you a fan of the Ocean’s franchise? What are your favourite heist movies?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!

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