Oceans 13

June 15th, 2007 Dark Horizons, Film, Film Reviews

Some moviegoers might not have realised Oceans Eleven was a remake of a 1960 film. But Steven Soderbergh’s 2001 crime romp borrowed more than the name and the idea of casting Hollywood’s most suave and debonair leading men.

It was made in a time where movies didn’t have to have themes. They were just stories. You wondered what would happen, what those events would further cause to happen and enjoyed yourself if it was well crafted and you liked the people on the screen.

It was something the Soderbergh/Clooney produced remake got pitch perfect, the same thing Ocean’s Twelve fumbled so badly. The latter felt too full of subplots, too full of big stars jostling for screen time (ironic considering its predecessor balanced some of Hollywood’s biggest personalities perfectly), and moved the whole thing away from the territory everyone loved about the original.

So it’s a great pleasure to see Ocean’s 13 returns to form. An exercise in pure plotting, it’s a classic heist movie. It tells a large story economically by showing us what we need to see and arranging the elements of the story according to where they fall, where they lie in relation to each other, and their causes and effects.

And this jigsaw puzzle is bought to the screen with some charismatic performances and snappy dialogue. In fact, you’d benefit from a few further viewings to catch every nuance and Macguffin the scam hinges on.

The film opens with the group’s patriarch Reuben (Gould) being ripped off by slimy casino kingpin Bank (Pacino), with whom he’s creating the biggest and best hotel/casino on Las Vegas’ main strip.

With Reuben out of it in bed after a heart attack following the double cross, the gang come together and decide to get even with Bank the only way they know how. A phoney hotel award representative played by Saul (Reiner), a $36 million underground drill operated by Basher (Cheadle), a Mexican plastics plant infiltrated by Virgil (Affleck) and Turk (Caan) and a fake nose for Linus (Damon) are just the beginning.

It’s all a joyous, funny and thrilling old-school good time. Don’t expect social comment or a political conscience — both Clooney and Soderbergh save that for other movies. In an age where stars are the new ambassadors for every political cause there is (including on screen), it’s a rare pleasure to see them doing what they do best — looking good, doing things us mortals would never dare and getting away with it all.

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