Ocean's Eleven is a 1960 film starring Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Dean Martin, and Peter Lawford. This was the first and by far the most successful of the Rat Pack (a clique of popular entertainers at the time) movies, mostly due to the popularity of the actors but most surely aided by a witty comedic caper script. The film was directed by Lewis Milestone, written by George Johnson and Jack Russell, and released by Warner Bros. It is still available today on DVD and VHS formats.

The story revolves around Danny Ocean, played by Frank Sinatra and a group of ten of his friends that served together in World War II. Under Ocean's direction, the group of eleven plan to rob five of the biggest casinos in Las Vegas in one night. They develop a master plan but after the whole thing is over, something goes wrong and the whole conspiracy falls apart.

Frank Sinatra rules the show here; his calm and collected coolness and wit, surrounded with a very clever script, that makes this movie very entertaining and watchable. The rest of the cast fall into place alongside this demeanor, making this film a very laid back yet enjoyable affair.

The characters in this movie, though, are by no means heroes; the script is littered with sexist jokes and sexist behavior. There are a lot of purely entertaining and humorous moments, but there are times in which the sexism almost becomes overbearing; it is a strong undercurrent in the film.

There are some elements of the plot that stretch believability. Dean Martin is somehow able to, within 48 hours of the hatching of the plan, obtain a cabaret spot in one of the target casinos stretches credibility quite a bit. His three-piece backing combo absurdly produces the sound of twenty to thirty instruments while he is playing, and when Las Vegas is suddenly deprived of electrical power, Martin's microphone curiously keeps on working.

I suppose this is the type of film that you shouldn't take too seriously; after all, it's a comedy built more on image than anything. Still, it's interesting for nothing else than the fact that it provides a great glimpse of life in Las Vegas around the end of the 1950s.

But wait... there's more...

Ocean's Eleven is being remade and is scheduled for a late 2001 release, again by Warner Bros. It is being directed by Steven Soderbergh, using largely the same script. The cast this time around is absolutely stellar, featuring George Clooney as Danny Ocean (reprising Frank Sinatra's role), Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, and Julia Roberts. It remains to be seen if some of the sexism is cut from the script, or it is entirely left alone as a period piece of sorts.

Looking back at the original Ocean's 11, it seems like an ideal candidate to be remade because it's such a piece of its time; like a snapshot of that "other 60's" that was in power before the Beatles and the counterculture movement gave us the flower-power period most people think about. Nope, in the Kennedy era, it was a time of Sinatraand cocktails; a time when cocky guys in their 40's (aka Rat Pack) were firmly in control of just about everything, including movies. That the original is so tied to its time means this film can take the central plot elements, dump just about everything else, and then come out with an all-new movie... which is what the best remakes are all about!

I'll wrap up this commentary by noting how great it is that this movie is being helmed by Steven Soderbergh, who is becoming one of the most noteworthy directors of late, with his Out of Sight (with Clooney) hailed as one of the best films of 1998, and Erin Brockovich (with Roberts) likewise being hailed. Including The Limey, a trend that Soderbergh seems to be following is to give each film an unique visual style that reminds you of an earlier age of cinema (The Limey seemed very late 1960's; Out of Sight had a 70's feel), so we might guess that he could (or could not) pay homage to the early 60's again with this film.

Remake of Ocean's 11

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Cast:

George Clooney: Danny Ocean
Brad Pitt: Rusty Ryan
Julia Roberts:Tess Ocean
Matt Damon: Linus Caldwell
Andy Garcia: Terry Benedict
Don Cheadle: Basher Tarr
Carl Reiner: Saul Bloom
Elliott Gould: Reuben Tishkoff
Scott Caan: Turk Malloy
Bernie Mac: Frankie Cattone
Casey Affleck: Virgil Malloy
Shaobo Qin Yen: Mu-Shuu
Edward Jemison: Livingston Dell

Plot

The leading character is Danny Ocean who has only recently come out of prison, with intent however to rob 3 casinos in Las Vegas, the casinos are all owned by one man, Benedict and so there is one vault which contains all the money ($150 million). To do this he needs 10 other criminals, each trained in one type of expertise. We soon find that ex-wife, Tess has hooked up with Benedict so reasons for Ocean robbing these casinos become apparent. So the plot unfurls.

Review

Firstly I would like to say this film is as slick as they come, the whole setting, characters and plot roll into one. This film's main focus is to try and look cool and try to recreate the feel of the original rat-pack. This original rat-pack film was a film people saw so that they could see, Sinatra, Martin and Davis jr. This one however detracts from the stars a little and focuses on the plot. I thought Clooney, Pitt an Garcia were good but I thought Damon and Roberts fell a little short not really giving us something we have come to expect of them. The film gave me a feeling of satisfaction with the style and pinache which was included with the heist. A thoroughly enjoyable film which I consider to be better than the original.

Film Review: Oceans 11 (2002)

With the impending DVD release of the 2002 incarnation of Oceans 11, it seems appropriate to take a look back at one of the most eagerly awaited movies of the year

With Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic and 'Erin Brockovich sweeping aside all that came before them at last years Academy awards, the world has waited with baited breath for another show-stopper from the man widely regarded as the best contemporary director in Hollywood today.

Early forecast’s suggested that his latest - Oceans 11 - would follow in the footsteps of last year’s blockbusters, but it has failed to receive a single nomination for the 75th Academy awards to be held on 24th March.

Assembling the best ensemble cast of his generation seemed to be a good start. Indeed if there was such a category then Oceans would already be a shoe in for the gong. Relying on a few familiar faces in George Clooney (Out of sight and SS’s partner in production company ‘Section Eight’) and Julia Roberts (Erin Brockovich) and adding the talents of Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, and Andy Garcia, Soderbergh has re-envisaged Frank Sinatra’s original ‘rat pack’ from the original and less distinguished Oceans.

The 2002 version can be summed up by the character traits of its leading players; as slick as a Clooney one-liner, as aesthetically pleasing as a Roberts smile and as bouncy as a Pitt chuckle. Oceans will go down as one of the prettiest and smoothest heist movies of all time, which certainly overshadows its predecessor.

The Las Vegas location is perfectly suited to Soderbergh’s fast paced cinematographic style, the bright lights of The Strip acting as an adrenaline shot in the arm of the viewer, which really gets the blood pumping for the impending heist to end all heists.

The question begs however, does Oceans 11’s star driven narrative have the ability to enthrall and captivate in the same was in which Traffic and Erin Brockovich impressed the academy to such an extent in 2000?

The glitz and glamour of Vegas is a far cry from the beginning of the picture in which we first meet an imprisoned and unshaven Daniel Ocean (Clooney) at his parole hearing. Upon his release he encounters old friend and card shark Rusty Ryan (Pitt) and the pitch is made.

The pitch is this. The heist of $160m from an impregnable vault of three Casino’s, protected by an elite team of armed ecurity guards and more camera’s than Kodak. Seems simple enough right? Well add to the mix the devilishly clever Terrence Benedict, (Andy Garcia) the viscous entrepreneur owner of the Casinos and this is surely the impossible job.

So the heist is set, all that is needed is a crew. Enter Matt Damon, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan Carl Reiner, Elliott Gould, Edward Jemison, Shaobo Qin, Bernie Mac and Don Cheadle (phew…..) to make up the 11.

The plan is elaborate to the extreme and one must marvel at the complexity of what is to take place. While the plan is complex, the plot certainly isn’t. At no point during the narrative does Soderbergh allow the audience to believe that the crew will not pull of the heist, leading to viewer impatience and a willingness for the plot to ‘cut to the chase’ for lack of a better term.

The suspension of disbelief is also tested to the limit here, is it really possible that such an audacious plan could take place, even with the apparent expertise of Clooney and Pitt's seemingly fool proof scheme. With Pitt, Clooney, Damon and of course the fantastic Andy Garcia all putting in stellar performances, it is the rest of Oceans ‘eleven’ which let the side down so to speak. Bomb expert and happy go lucky cockney, Basher Tarr (Cheadle) is ultimately lame and annoying in the utmost, as are bickering twins Turk and Virgil Malloy (Caan and Affleck) who’s occasionally amusing antics do not excuse an otherwise mundane performance.

Enter Julia Roberts to surely save the day for Soderbergh. Given a chance her presence may very well have saved the narrative, but so small is her role we are barely allowed the pleasure of a trademark Julia smile. However she is as always perfect for the role and only accountants would argue with employing the number one leading lady in movie history in such a bit part role.

However small her role, Tess is indeed central to the narrative. As Danny Oceans ex wife and Benedicts new ‘main squeeze’ she acts Clooney’s motivation to hit Benedict’s Casino's taking on the role as the obligatory love element of Soderbergh’s new, mainstream narratives. One of the few twists Oceans 2002 has to offer is the order of preference in which Danny places his priorities - work or love. Oceans 11 will prove ultimately satisfying for a mainstream audience, and the presence of Hollywood heartthrobs Pitt, Clooney and Damon plus a cameo appearance from Lennox Lewis (en-route to losing the Heavyweight championship at the time of filming) will do box-office figures no-harm whatsoever. It is indeed the big players which save the movie, without perhaps the greatest ensemble cast of the last 20 years; Oceans would be as notorious as its 1965 predecessor.

Which also begs the question as to the status of once Independent god Soderbergh who was once awarded the palm d’Or at the 1989 Cannes film festival for his feature length debut, Sex, lies and videotape'. From the utterly obscure Schizopolis to a movie as mainstream and star driven as Oceans 11 is quite a turnaround.

The native Georgian was celebrated as the forefront ‘Indy’ director who had stayed true to the techniques when cemented his Status. A great deal of the acclaim he received for Out of sight, Traffic and Erin Brockovich were due to the smooth transition of his independent style out of the music halls and into to the multiplexes.

It seems that for Oceans 11 he has abandoned his roots and with that his previously unmistakable brand of movie making and now totally completed the journey from Independent auteur to mainstream mogul. Nothing but standard cutting, linear narrative and cheesy gags make up the 90+ minutes of Oceans 11.

However Ignoring the apparent Soderberghsell-out’, Oceans 11 is still a very entertaining movie, not a must see twice movie by any means but still very gratifying. Pitt, Clooney, Damon and Garcia don’t just star in the movie, they save it and should take far more credit for its success than the director.

7/10

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