Review Legacy Revision Candidate

Ocean’s Eleven (2004)

I’d never argue it’s one of the best, but Ocean’s Eleven is undoubtedly one of the coolest movies I’ve ever seen: The characters are cool, swaggering con men always one step ahead of the marks, and played by cool actors. The plot is cool, twisting until nearly every set-up, even the ones you didn’t know were set-ups, have had an unexpected payoff. And the visual style is deeply cool, with Steven Soderbergh soaking in the Vegas hues and lucky-7s adrenaline, briskly edited into pristine motion.

And yet, as great as it is, I’m just a smidge colder on it every time I watch it. Once you know all the tricks, you inevitably start picking away at their narrative logic (or lack thereof) like a gnarly scab. A few of the twists are, frankly, kind of cheap. Another problem that keeps me from getting invested the way I do into masterpieces is that I never quite buy Clooney’s shattered heart at losing Julia Roberts — he’s having too much fun in the role.

But I’m not here to complain. This is a terrific film. One of the great pure-fun blockbusters of my lifetime. There’s so much sheer charisma and star power, so many clever snatches of writing and fun set pieces in the heist, that it’s one of the quickest, most joyful, most breathless two hours you’ll ever spend.

Is It Good?

Very Good (6/8)

Note: This review was originally published elsewhere. Please excuse brevity or inconsistencies in style. If you have questions or feedback, please leave a comment or contact me.

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One reply on “Ocean’s Eleven (2004)”

Yeah, if you watch it too many times, the plot mechanics surrounding the heist become rather ludicrous. Benedict is just gonna do this favor for doddering old man Saul, and let his briefcase into the vault, because… uh, he’s supposedly an Important European Businessman? Who Benedict doesn’t vet at all? And he’s gonna let Damon wander around the back halls of his casino un-supervised? Stealing the pinch really didn’t lead to any consequences for them? Etc.

And sometimes I do wish it had just a tiny bit of…oh, I don’t know, purpose? Ambition? More urgency and danger as the climax approaches? (The movie’s heart rate never gets out of zone 1.) But maybe I’ve just seen it too many times. And the first few times you watch it, none of the flaws matter. The dialogue, the smoothness, the pervasive sense of fun, the charisma of the cast, Pitt’s poker game with the actors, the twins’ car-racing scene, everything with Elliot Gould… it’s so much funnier and more pleasurable than the vast majority of actual comedies.

The scene between Clooney & Roberts in the restaurant practically steps out of an old screwball comedy.

“You’re a liar and a thief.”
“I only lied about being a thief… but I don’t do that anymore.”
“I’m with someone now who doesn’t have to make that kind of distinction.”
“Oh, no, he’s very clear on both.”

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