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Movie Rewind: “Ocean’s Eleven”

Eric Prister | Wednesday, November 18, 2009

“Cause the house always wins. Play long enough, you never change the stakes, the house takes you. Unless, when that perfect hand comes along, you bet and you bet big, then you take the house.”

Steven Soderbergh certainly had a near perfect hand and beat the house when he chose to direct the 2001 remake of a 1960 Rat Pack film, “Ocean’s Eleven.”

This movie takes place in Las Vegas, where professional thief Danny Ocean (George Clooney), just after being released from jail, sets out to rob three casinos with the help of 10 carefully chosen accomplices, including his right hand man, Rusty (Brad Pitt).
The 2001 version first and foremost does an excellent job of creating a unique situation by portraying as likable those that would normally be considered the “bad guys” and making even more unlikable those characters that would normally be the victim. The star-studded cast certainly helps achieve this goal, creating likable personas for the thieves and vise versa.

Clooney and Pitt headline the incredible cast, and their characters — Ocean and Rusty — give the feeling that these two have known and worked with each other for so long that they act with one brain. This makes the dialogue witty but also relatable, since most viewers have a person with which they communicate in this way. The supporting cast of characters, including those played by Bernie Mac and Don Cheadle, are each very likeable in their own right, and add to the overall vivacity of the group.

The owner of the casino — Terry Benedict — is played by Andy Garcia, who does an equally good job of making his character unlikable. Benedict is selfish and chilling, looking out only for what is good for himself and his casinos. He stands alone in the film as the only antagonist, and his very nature makes the viewers want him to come out losing in the end.

The movie itself has an air of coolness throughout, from the flashy scenery to the clothes worn by all of the characters to music chosen by the director. It makes the viewer to want to be a part of the robbery. There is something appealing about using intelligence to outsmart someone, and “Ocean’s Eleven” brings that out remarkably.

In the end, it is not simply one aspect that makes “Ocean’s Eleven” an enjoyable movie many times over. It has excellent re-watch value, particularly because of the intricate plot and the witty dialogue. In fact, the movie gets better each time one watches it, in part because it has layers that are missed the first time. Each time someone watches it, he or she is likely to pick up some new aspect to the plot or a humorous line that he missed, adding to the experience.

It is difficult to explain exactly why the movie succeeds (which is saying something coming from a writer who has seen the movie more than 50 times). Yes, the dialogue is witty and quick. True, the actors are stars and live up to their stardom. And of course, the plot is interesting and intense at points. It is an indefinable quality that shines through, however, which makes “Ocean’s Eleven” such a quality movie-watching experience and which should earn it a second viewing. Or a 50th.