It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Serious pianists sometimes pound out a little honky-tonk, just for fun. That's like what Steven Soderbergh is doing in "Ocean's Eleven." This is a standard genre picture, a remake of the 1960 Frank Sinatra caper, and Soderbergh, who usually aims higher, does it as a sort of lark. It's slick, all right: directors this good don't usually handle material this routine. It has yearnings above its natural level, as if hoping to redeem itself and metamorphose into a really good movie.
The movie stars George Clooney, who can be powerfully impassive better than almost anybody, as Danny Ocean, fresh out of prison and eager for a new job. He's a smooth operator who, his parole board notes, figured in a dozen investigations where he was never charged. He contacts his old sidekick Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) with a scheme to steal millions from not one but three Las Vegas casinos. Amazingly, the movie specifies and shoots in real casinos (the Mirage, the MGM Grand and the Bellagio) and incorporates the destruction of the Desert Inn.
Casing the job, Rusty sees the casino owner (Andy Garcia) with a woman he recognizes: Tess Ocean (Julia Roberts), Danny's ex-wife. "Tell me it isn't about her," Rusty begs Danny. Of course it is. Ocean wants to steal from his ex-wife's current lover and get her back again. They assemble a team, including Matt Damon, Don Cheadle and Casey Affleck. I suppose there are 11 in all, although even during a long tracking shot I forgot to count.
The outlines of a caper movie are long and well established: the scary external shot of the impenetrable targets; the inside information; the voice-over as we see guards going about their work, and the plan with the split-second timing. "Ocean's Eleven" even includes an elaborate full-scale mock-up of the strong room used by the three casinos, leading to such practical questions as, (1) Why does it need to be this elaborate? (2) How much did it cost? and (3) Who contracted it for them, or did they knock it together themselves overnight? The movie excels in its delivery of dialogue. The screenplay by Ted Griffin is elegantly epigrammatic, with dialogue that sounds like a cross between Noel Coward and a 1940s noir thriller.