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Warner Home Video presents
Ocean's Eleven (2001)

Danny: I always confuse Monet and Manet. Which one married his mistress?
Tess: Monet.
Danny: And then Manet had syphilis.
Tess: They also painted occasionally.

- George Clooney, Julia Roberts

Review By: Joel Cunningham  
Published: April 15, 2002

Stars: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts
Other Stars: Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Elliot Gould, Bernie Mac, Carl Reiner
Director: Steven Soderbergh

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some language and sexual content
Run Time: 01h:56m:27s
Release Date: May 07, 2002
UPC: 085392263424
Genre: crime


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A A-A-A- B-

DVD Review

Steven Soderbergh is certainly on a roll. After his twin Oscar® nods for 2000s' Erin Brockovich and Traffic, he decided to tackle a remake of the rather stilted and slapdash Rat Pack crime caper Ocean's Eleven. Only the basic premise remains—a group of eleven con artists and thieves teaming up to rob a Las Vegas casino. It seems slight material for a director who'd just tackled a film about the intricate web of the drug trade, and, in a way, it is. The updated Ocean's Eleven is pure escapism through and through, without a serious moment or a flicker of social concern. It's easily the most entertaining movie I've seen in quite some time.

Danny Ocean (George Clooney, further cementing his rep as one of the slickest guys alive after O, Brother, Where Art Thou? and Out of Sight) has just been released from prison after four years, and all the solitary confinement gave him time to craft a killer plan. He figures if he can get the right team together, he can do the impossible—rob Las Vegas and get away clean.

Ocean recruits his former partner Rusty (Brad Pitt), rescuing him from a boring life of teaching spoiled Hollywood stars to play poker convincingly (as seen in a great "inside" scene featuring Joshua Jackson and Topher Grace that is worth a rental all by itself), and the two go about gathering up the best of the best. Which is likely the goal Soderbergh had in mind while casting, because the group of actors filling the title roles is just about the most impressive I have ever seen in terms of talent and star wattage. The plan involves equal contributions and expert timing from each member, including slick pickpocket Linus (Matt Damon), aging high-roller Saul (Carl Reiner), and bomb-expert Basher (Don Cheadle).

There's only one problem—Ocean's intended targets are three casinos owned by Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), the most powerful and ruthless man in Vegas ("He'll kill you, then he'll go to work on you," says backer Reuben (Elliot Gould)). And his choice wasn't arbitrary, either—Benedict is currently living with Tess (Julia Roberts), Danny's ex-wife. It's a two-prong job, to steal the money and the girl.

Last year's The Score was a disappointment because its incredibly intricate final 30 minutes, complete with a thrilling heist and a string of betrayals and double-crosses, was itself betrayed by the—up to that point—plodding story and bland characters. Ocean's Eleven has it both ways. The characters are all marvelously entertaining and memorable and the heist sequences are an intoxicating, adrenaline-pumping dose of brain candy.

Soderbergh is clearly going for a timeless feel with his snappy direction—he's a fluid filmmaker who never pulls attention too far from the characters with a lot of visual tricks (though he does once again employ his signature elliptical editing). Ted Griffin's screenplay revels in creating characters that feel real while spouting totally classy, cinematic dialogue straight out of 1940s noir potboilers. My favorite exchange is between Tess and Danny, who has just barged into her life again after four years in prison:

Tess: You're a thief and a liar.
Danny: I only lied about being a thief.
Tess: You don't do that anymore?
Danny: Steal?
Tess: Lie.

I'd go so far as to say that the sole goal in Ocean's Eleven was to create a picture the opposite of Traffic, one that shuns message and meaning and concentrates on being stylish and sexy. The eye-candy cast is no mistake. Pitt, Clooney, and Roberts are huge movie stars, and when they are having fun, they are fun to watch. Everyone has that buried fantasy of robbing a bank or pulling off the perfect crime. Ocean's Eleven is about looking good while doing it.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: This is an excellent transfer of fairly difficult source material. As he did in Traffic, here director/cinematographer Steven Soderbergh likes to use color filters, dramatic lighting, and lots of shadow to set the mood in each scene. From the most deeply shadowed to the most richly saturated, this transfer faithfully recreates the theatrical look of every scene. Black level and shadow detail are excellent, and colors fairly represent the stylized look of the film, with the casino scenes showing a bit of a golden sheen and the opening moments a monochromatic blue hue. Edge enhancement and artifacting aren't a problem, though shimmer is noticeable on some of the more complex shots of the Vegas skyline. Source material looks fairly clean, with a few scenes showing some intentional grain.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
English, Frenchyes


Audio Transfer Review: As a film, Ocean's Eleven doesn't demand a flashy sound mix, and the DVD delivers a 5.1 mix that is fairly subtle, with few major effects sequences but some nice creation of atmosphere. Dialogue is firmly anchored in the center channel and sounds very strong and natural, save for one instance of obvious ADR, near the end of the film (the natural sounding speech is impressive considering all of the necessary ADR when shooting in a noisy casino). The bulk of the action takes place across the front soundstage, though the score does expand across all available channels. Most of the film is dialogue-based, but the fronts spread things out nicely with good directionality and a few instances of panning. The surrounds do provide nice environmental effects and help to create the atmosphere of the casino fairly well.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 35 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish, French with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
2 Original Trailer(s)
1 TV Spots/Teasers
1 Documentaries
1 Featurette(s)
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by director Steven Soderbergh and writer Ted Griffin; actors Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, and Brad Pitt
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: Snapper
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extras Review: Ocean's Eleven has a decent package of extras, but the quantity and content pales in comparison to most blockbuster DVDs being released these days.

The major substantive extras are the two commentary tracks. The first features director Steven Soderbergh and writer Ted Griffin. It's a fairly interesting listen. The two have a good rapport, joking with each other about which elements were in the original script, which were improvised, which don't work, and who is to blame. Sometimes it is hard to tell which of the two is speaking, which makes the track a little confusing at times. Also, they discuss one outtake that "we have to put on the DVD" except it isn't on this disc.

The second track, with Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, and Andy Garcia, is the more entertaining of the two, at least in my eyes, as my favorite parts of a commentary track are the on-set anecdotes and stories about the creative team. Pitt and Damon do most of the talking, and both have fun poking fun at George Clooney or praising Soderbergh's direction. Andy Garcia, meanwhile, gets in a few good digs about his character being the richest guy in Vegas.

The Making of Ocean's Eleven is a fairly typical promotional featurette. It runs 15 minutes and does little more than intersperse clips from the trailer with brief comments from the actors describing their characters. Soderbergh and Griffin also briefly comment on the plot and provide the setup. There is absolutely no information on the actual making of the film, which is expected.

More enjoyable is the nine-minute featurette on costume designer Jeffery Kurland, The Look of the Con. Kurland describes his working process for each character, as he tried to design clothes that not only looked good, but also that fit that character's story arc and personality. There are some neat split screen comparisons between the original sketches and the final costumes. It's a fun piece, since everyone in the film looks so good all the time—I'd like my own personal designer to pick out just what color track pants will look the best for early morning classes.

Aside from brief filmographies for the "big five" stars and the writer and director, the disc includes two teaser trailers and a full theatrical trailer. Two of the spots are presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen; the other is anamorphic 2.35:1. The whole package is wrapped up in stylishly retro menus. The feature includes 35 chapter stops and English, French, and Spanish subtitles.

On the DVD-ROM side, Windows users can enjoy the very well conceived interactive game IN or OUT?, which casts you as a member of Danny's team. Actually, it's six mini-games, from breaking into the vault to driving the getaway car, all very diverting and well worth a spin (I lost about a hundred thousand virtual dollars on virtual black jack). Also included is a link to the official website and a login for future web events.

Extras Grade: B-

 

Final Comments

Ocean's Eleven sets out to provide a thrill ride for the audience, to let them revel in the cool cast, crackling dialogue, and a suspenseful, well-staged heist sequence. The name of the game here is fun, and the film doubles down and delivers.

 


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