Ocean's Eleven (2001)

Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Written by Ted Griffin, based on the 1960 screenplay by Harry Brown & Charles Lederer, which was in turn based on a story by George Clayton Johnson & Jack Golden Russell
Starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia

My Advice: Don't Miss It.

Danny Ocean (Clooney) is out on parole after finally getting nabbed on one of his many scams. No sooner is he out than he's looking up old friends like a blackjack dealer (Bernie Mac) and an old pro (Pitt)--because he's got a new plan. That new plan consists of knocking over three Vegas casinos in one night, all of which belong to the ruthless Terry Benedict (Garcia). In order to do so, they need a cadre of eleven guys in total, all working together to bring down the house--literally.

The cool thing about Soderbergh is he alternates. He makes one movie with blatant commercial appeal ( Erin Brockovich, Out of Sight) then a more artistic film (Limey, Traffic) and then back again. And what's even cooler is that his commercial films are just good movies. Are they Best Picture contenders? Well, not in any realistic cinematic world. But that's not the point. They're just good movies. I know we get them so seldom these days, they frighten us when they show up--but do not fear. Eleven delivers.

First, the story is quick and manages to find room for bits for all fifty-seven roles in the cast. This is a far cry from the original 1960 film, which most people just don't even remember that it was ever made. Instead, we have gadgets, we have suspense and we have star power.

And the star power is quite good. Oh sure, Roberts and Garcia aren't given a tremendous lot to do, but this is a large ensemble piece and you do the best you can. But Clooney is charming as hell, Carl Reiner is wonderful--as always--to see on screen, and a scene involving Damon, Garcia and comedian Bernie Mac is one of the high points of the film. Nobody disappoints, although the two drivers played by Casey Affleck and Scott Caan could have been filled by pretty much any young actors. One wonders how much better that portion of the film would have been if they had been played by the Brothers Wilson as initially considered.

A quick word about the music, provided by Soderbergh collaborator David Holmes: it's badass. If I ever get five seconds free I'm going to go buy that CD. Nice and jazzy, kind of like retro 60's music on speed with a techno bent. You gotta love it.

This is a popcorn movie, pure enjoyment, plain and simple. Don't think about it too much, it'll just ruin it for you. Recommended to you for the big screen treatment, and see it with a slightly packed house for maximum audience participation pleasure.

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