Ocean's Eleven review

:. Director: Steven Soderbergh
:. Starring: George Clooney, Brad Pitt
:. Running Time: 2:00
:. Year: 2001
:. Country: USA

At its finest hour, Hollywood was the uncontested ambassador of glamour and charm. Then the budgets exploded, the explosions invaded the screen, and the capital of world cinema was transformed into a box office laboratory where quality was abandoned for aseptic, vulgar and pre-masticated products. With Ocean's 11, Steven Soderbergh resuscitates the glory days of Hollywood by putting together a star studded cast at the service of elegant entertainment.

George Clooney plays Danny Ocean, a professional burglar who as soon as he's released from prison decides to attack three Vegas casinos. To do this he appoints a team of experts among which is a card player, Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt); a specialist in explosives, Basher Tarr (the Don Cheadle); and a pickpocket, Linus Cladwell (Matt Damon). The presence of Tess (Julia Roberts), Ocean's ex-wife and current companion of casino owner Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) will obviously spice things up.

Soderbergh is the essence of the film. By guarding his independent filmmaker sensibility intact and by dedicating certain affection to entertainment cinema in the grand tradition of Hollywood, he avoids the traps (and clichés) of traditional mainstream cinema to offer 2 hours of pure distraction. Without the presence of this director behind the camera, the stars would not have jostled each other sacrificing a portion of their salaries, and the film would have probably finished on the straight to video shelf with Burt Reynolds in the title role. Remember Erin Brockovich. Without Soderbergh, the film would have been called A Civil Action.

Ocean's 11 is not pure Soderbergh either. The film has neither the inventiveness, nor the humor of The Limey and Out of Sight. Less impersonal than Erin Brockovich, one is nonetheless far from the complex undertaking of Traffic. Instead, the director applies an academic homage to a disappeared genre: light and unpretentious cinema. While not a masterpiece, the film maintains a certain level by never sinking into the usual formulae of situation reversals. Soderbergh's greatest talent may be making any commercial project bearable (like Erin Brockovich). It's what makes the difference between Ocean's 11 and a recent film about the same topic, The Score. The linearity of the full-length film shows that it has no other purpose or twist than simple enjoyment.

Though the spectacle may be rather simple, it is no less cool. The camera films the character in the second degree while the excellent retro soundtrack by David Holmes brings rhythm to the film. The other factor is obviously the presence of George Clooney and Brad Pitt.

Both actors complement each other and one can clearly see that they take pleasure in bouncing the ball back and forth. Though Clooney has more charisma, in terms of charm and self-confidence Pitt isn't lacking anything. One cannot say as much about Julia Roberts, rather tense in her rare moments onscreen and the caricatured Andy Garcia who seems to take off where The Godfather: Part Three left him. Worse, the Casey Affleck - Scott Caan duo is so tiresome that it's reminiscent of the small animal couples that always accompany the hero in Disney cartoons. With out a doubt it would have been preferable to spend more time with Elliot Gould and Don Cheadle. Finally, Matt Damon doesn't have a lot on his plate in this role.

Much like Danny Ocean's plan, smooth and without a hitch, Ocean's 11 pulls it off without too much damage.

  Fred Thom

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