"Ocean's Eleven" has everything a Hollywood heist movie should have - a daring, almost-impossible caper, high-tech wizardsy, some nasties to liven things up, and, obviously, the pot of money at the end. Luckily, though, it also has a couple of other things that have been missing in the recent crop of Hollywood fare - a glittering cast, a stylishly-elegant plot, and the ability to poke fun at itself and the genre in general.
For those of you living in a cave, the plot is fairly simple: Danny Ocean (George Clooney), burglar and smooth-talking con man, gets out of jail and decides to celebrate by hitting three of the richest casinos in Vegas. The prospect of millions in cash is just one of the things he likes about the score; the other is that all three casinos are owned by Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), who also happens to be currently dating Ocean's ex-wife, Tess (Julia Roberts).
Obviously, this heist isn't going to be simple - the casinos are locked up tighter that "most nuclear missile silos", and Ocean's going to need one heck of a plan - not to mention one crazy crew - to attempt something like this. Luckily, Danny is a man with a plan, and lost of numbers in his little black book - which is why, soon enough, he's assembled a bunch of guys skilled in all the necessary black arts. There's the con man (Brad Pitt), the pickpocket (Matt Damon), the computer wizard (Edward Jemison), the explosives guy (Don Cheadle), the acrobat (Shaobo Qin), the financier (Elliot Gould) and a bunch of other assorted crooks and misfits. Together, these eleven guys decide to go for broke, staging the heist with a plan so convoluted and crazy, it just might work...
With a premise like this, and backed by Hollywood's A-list, "Ocean's Eleven" sounds like a hit before you've seen the first frame - and it is. Clooney and his merry men swagger, strut and deadpan their way through every single scene, and it's hard not to root for them. Their attitude is infectious; it's obvious that the cast had a good time filming this movie and it's clearly visible in their on-screen chemistry. While every single member turns in a good performance, I particularly liked Elliott Gould, who does a great job as the cantankerous moneybags funding the heist.
The direction is superb, with some great shots of Vegas at night, and the action shifts smoothly from one plotline to the next. The last thirty minutes will keep you on the edge of your seat, and the smartly-conceived twist in the tail may even have you applauding at the audacity of the plan. Sure, there are a few holes in the plot, but the overall package is so slick that you're more than willing to ignore them for the pur pleasure this film provides. Don't miss it!This article was first published on 28 Feb 2002.