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Ocean's Eleven (2001)
Widescreen Edition

review by Zach B.

 

 

Rating: PG-13 (Some Language and Sexual Content)

Running Time: 117 minutes

Starring: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Elliott Gould, Bernie Mac, Carl Reiner

Screenplay by: Ted Griffin

Directed by: Steven Soderbergh

 

Studio: Warner Bros.

Retail Price: $26.98

Features: Audio Commentary with Director Steven Soderbergh and Writer Ted Griffin, Audio Commentary with Matt Damon, Andy Garcia and Brad Pitt, HBO First Look: The Making Of Ocean's Eleven, The Look Of The Con, Cast and Crew Listing, Teaser Trailers, Theatrical Trailer. DVD-ROM: In Or Out? Challenge Cuts, Weblinks, Website

Specs: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Surround, French Dolby Digital 5.1, English Subtitles, French Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selection (35 Scenes)

Released: May 7th, 2002

 

 

Most recently, I've talked about remakes when I reviewed the 1995 version of Sabrina. However, if I repeated myself in this review about remakes and how I don't see a point to them, I'd be lying. Let's be honest here: the original 1960 version of "Ocean's Eleven" wasn't that great to begin with. I suppose there are exceptions to the rule of remake. I mean, "Ocean's Eleven" wasn't an Oscar® winning masterpiece that transcended barriers or anything. But being the original wasn't great to begin with, the only way all the talents in this new version could go is up. And they have succeeded greatly. I'd say that "Ocean's Eleven" is more of a reimaginaing of the original film. Now set in the present day, all that's kept is the name Danny Ocean and a key concept.

So yes, our film opens with Danny Ocean (George Clooney) being released from prison. Danny's got a plan for a whole new heist, where he plans to rob three of Las Vegas' biggest casinos: the MGM Grand, The Bellagio and The Mirage. All of these are run by Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia). Danny can't pull all this off by himself, so he rounds up a variety of people to help him in his heist, each specializing in a certain field of sorts. If this team can pull it off, they'll split over 150 million dollars evenly. Of course, this will take a lot of planning seeing how it's been impossible in the past for others. Yet there are some distractions along the way... Danny is trying to win the heart of his ex-wife Tess (Julia Roberts) and there can be a glitches in the plan. But yes, like the tagline, it comes down to one thing... are you in or are you out?

Like I said, given the talent involved in this remake and that the original wasn't a prize masterpiece, it'd be hard to mess this one up, though I could see this film falling in some holes. Thankfully, this is one awesome caper flick. This is one true ensemble piece, where not one element from the talent works, but rather, they all come together to create something special. I know some people were skeptical when this remake was announced, thinking that Hollywood has run out of ideas and they have to go back. Yet those skeptics must have been stunned as "Ocean's Eleven" grossed nearly 200 million dollars during its run and how well it turned out. This is a remake done right, really improving upon the original as it feels quite fresh and new. I'm not saying Hollywood should revert back to the past, but if it can work and be done right, then they should. "Ocean's Eleven" is a perfect example.

Soderbergh, like usual, has ensembled a top-notch cast for this film. George Clooney is his usual charismatic self as Danny Ocean. His delivery is superb, as he's quite natural and charming. Brad Pitt is quite cunning and charming as well, while Andy Garcia makes a usual strong showing as the villainous casino owner. Matt Damon, in a less emotional but still fine role as Linus doesn't quite stand out as he should, but he's really good. Some critics have said that Julia Roberts was overshadowed by everyone else, but I disagree. Yes, her role isn't major, but she shows her acting chops and also has great delivery, and is superb in the role as Tess. She really does deliver some of the best moments in the movie. Elliot Gould, Bernie Mac and Carl Reiner are quite hilarious, while Casey Affleck, Scott Caan and Don Cheadle (who went uncredited I believe) hold their own. Overall, everyone brings something different, unique and fun to their roles for some true, diverse acting.

This is a nice follow-up for Soderbergh, who filmed this movie during the Oscar® season (yes, when he was nominated twice as Best Director and won). A good deal of his work has been serious, but this is more light and fun. And he makes it work quite well. Soderbergh has great skills as we've seen in the past, and as he knows how to keep a level tone, he keeps it here quite well. This is simply a fun movie, and arguably, complex to shoot seeing how there is a good deal of different shots to take and a lot of actors to work with. I personally think Soderbergh has done it all rather flawlessly. He keeps it all going at a great pace, so it never gets dull or boring. It's a rather even movie that is made quite well. Soderbergh has great compositions, angles and a strong style of how it's all put together. He brings all the great elements together. His sense of visualization can really bring anyone into this straightforward plot and fun movie.

Ted Griffin's script is really great. The whole idea seems unimaginable and highly unrealistic, yet Griffin really knows what he's talking about. The actual heist plans and it taking place involving everyone is incredibly well thought out and pulled off. You really just have to see it to know what I'm talking about. The logic he uses is great considering the scenario, and the light yet still pretty serious atmosphere he creates is rather wondrous. There's no major character development in the film, and that's okay, as you do get a sense of each character and in a movie like "Ocean's Eleven," that's all you need. This is one solid script that captures what a light action caper should be like. On a different note, I really enjoyed David Holmes jazzy score. Overall, this is one entertaining movie with great talent. It succeeds in everyway possible. This is just a fun, solid movie that does not disappoint. As you can see, when you got great people behind and on camera, there's a true sense of collaboration to make a robust film. It's really well made, and you can instantly get into it. If you just want to settle down one night and have a good time, you can't go wrong with "Ocean's Eleven."

 

 

Presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen in this "widescreen edition" (I suppose since the film was quite successful, Warner wants to please mainstream fans too and is releasing a separate full screen version), "Ocean's Eleven" looks pretty good. Soderbergh has gone on to talk about tricky compositions and reshooting scenes (he goes on about this in the commentary too), and considering the various different sets and locations the movie features, this can be one tricky transfer. Still, it's pulled off incredibly well. Detail is pretty well defined, while the only faults I really saw in the image were a good deal of noise, a tiny bit of halos in some shots, some shimmering and a decent deal of grain. I just mentioned the various locations and all, and the transfer keeps up with it. From the sunnyside views to the night locations, all while the dark interiors of the casino, it does come out pretty well. Still, color saturation is a little awkward. Fleshtones are dead on and look quite nice, but color saturation sometimes underwhelms some shots and sometimes overwhelms. It's not annoying, but in the end, it remains pretty solid like the transfer itself.

 

There is an English 5.1 Dolby Digital track that I found slightly disappointing. Don't get me wrong, it's a good track, but I was expecting more action and stronger dynamics. But there is a lot to like here. When the .1 LFE is used, it comes off pretty strong. Surrounds pack a good punch, but I was just hoping they'd be stronger. Like the explosions, the boxing scenes and break-ins, they have fine surrounds that light up the channels, but I was just hoping more for it, that's all. Still, David Holmes's score is quite nice and sounds great through the channels, while the dialogue is crisp and clear. For a more action leaned movie, it sounds quite good, but I was hoping it'd be a tad bit better. You also have Dolby Surround tracks in English and French, plus subtitles in French, Spanish and English and English closed captions.

 

We have two audio commentaries here. The Audio Commentary with Director Steven Soderbergh and Writer Ted Griffin is quite good. The two keep talking and talking. They have fun trivia about the movie and good production stories, as well as a lot of jokes and praise for the cast and crew. Soderbergh talks about cuts he made, how he shot (and reshot) things and what he wanted to accomplish. Griffin brings a sense of his job as the writer here, talking about his approach, his script, rewrites and all sorts of interesting tidbits. This is a very strong track if you want to learn about the production and about their roles as filmmakers, as we see that Soderbergh and Griffin got along quite well to create a strong movie, despite the flaws they see within it.

The second Audio Commentary with Matt Damon, Andy Garcia and Brad Pitt is also good. It seems edited, as if it was done in some sessions or something, and while there are pauses, it is pretty strong. The two make a lot of jokes that some listeners will get and some will not, but they also give praise to the rest of the cast and crew. They also share some production stories, talk about where things were shot and playing their characters. There's a lot of praise here, but they bring nice perspectives to this track and give a nice array of information. I'm usually not a giant fan of actor tracks, but given these three talents in a room together and what they say, this is truly worth a listen.

The HBO First Look: The Making Of Ocean's Eleven is your usual fluff special made for HBO to promote the movie. Those interviewed talk about the movie, and while they give their perspectives, it's not the most insightful or candid thing. Still, what's here is pretty good. We have interviews with Soderbergh, Weintraub and others... oh, and the whole cast. The special has clips from the film, and focuses on the characters, the plot and various other things. It's a bit fun, but nothing too outstanding.

The other featurette, The Look Of The Con, seems to be made for this DVD release and is more insightful. Soderbergh talks about he wanted to make it different from the original film, and then Jeffrey Kurland, the costume designer, talks about fitting the actors, the clothes he designed and the like. This is pretty interesting actually of what Kurland wanted to do with the production. We have interviews with some of the actors and we see original sketches. Nicely done.

We also have a Cast and Crew Listing and three Theatrical Trailers, all in anamorphic widescreen (the second teaser and theatrical trailer are in 1.85:1 while the first teaser is 2.35:1). We also have some DVD-ROM features such as the website, future online events and challenge cuts. Pretty decent stuff here.

 

With a great script, an incredible cast and a fantastic director, "Ocean's Eleven" is one remake that is a cut above the original and truly superior to it. This DVD has a solid presentation with a decent 5.1 mix and fine transfer, with a good amount of extras to boot. If you're a fan of the film, it's worth picking up for your collection. Otherwise, a great rental to watch with a big bowl of popcorn. Don't miss it!