Ocean’s Eleven marked the beginning of a four-movie-long saga that spanned over fifteen years and is still ongoing, with both a potential prequel set in the 60s rumoured to be in development, with Margot Robbie attached to the project as both the film’s star and producer. The Ocean’s saga is known for many things, starting from the top-tier Hollywood talent involved in it, with names, from George Cooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts, Andy Garcia and Catherine Zeta-Jones in the first two films to Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock, Anne Hathaway, Midy Kaling and even Al Pacino in the latter entries.
Though its many sequels were mixed bags, Ocean’s Eleven was considered a great success upon release, so much so that it was the 5th highest-grossing film of 2001, a time before Disney and Marvel dominated the box office. These Twitter-based critics may find some solace by playing Microgaming’s 9 pots of gold instead of watching heist movies. Yet, to this day, there are still those who dismiss the film as just another heist drama, and can’t see its appeal.
So what is it exactly that makes Ocean’s Eleven a favorite amongst audiences, even so many years since its initial release? What’s so special about the film, besides its stellar cast? Let’s explore the appeal of Ocean’s Eleven and why we think it’s actually a great movie.
What Is Ocean’s Eleven About?
Directed by Steven Soderbergh (Sex, Lies, and Videotape), Ocean’s Eleven is the remake of a 1960 heist film of the same name starring “Rat Pack” members Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, Sammy Davis Jr. and Joey Bishop. But if the original movie was set in World War II veterans, Ocean’s Eleven (2001) takes place in the 20th Century, revolving around a known thief named Danny Ocean (George Clooney) with an arch enemy, wealthy businessman and multi casino owner Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia).
When we first meet Danny, he has just gotten out of prison, but he already has a plan for a new heist. And so, he soon violates his parole to pitch his ideas to his partners-in-crime – right hand man Rusty (Brad Pitt), brothers Turk (Scott Caan) and Virgil (Casey Affleck), tech genius Livingston (Eddie Jemison), munitions expert Basher (Don Cheadle), business magnate Reuben (Elliott Gould) and retired friend Saul (Carl Reiner) – and recruit new team members Frank (Bernie Mac), Yen (Shaobo Qin) and Linus (Matt Damon). What Danny proposes is a heist that might prove difficult to pull off, but that would also win them $150 million. Needless to say, the team is in, but when the plan is already in motion they discover that Danny is hiding a secret. The film follows our heroes as they attempt to carry out the heist of the century while also dealing with Danny’s own past.
What Do People Not Like About The Movie?
There are several issues that people seem to have with the movie, and one of them is its storytelling style. Before the film’s release, fans of director Steven Soderbergh were used to films that were more complex in both storytelling and meaning, such as Erin Brockovich and Traffic. When they watched Ocean’s Eleven, they were disappointed to find that it favored entertainment over narrative depth, with a straightforward storyline that makes for a rewarding but often predictable watch.
Another criticism is towards character development, as many still claim that Danny Ocean is far more developed than his crew, who are not only often overshadowed by him but also, at times, given character traits that don’t really reveal much about their personalities, such as Don Cheadle’s cockney accent or how Brad Pitt’s character Rusty is always eating. Overall, the main criticism towards Ocean’s Eleven is that it doesn’t really add much to the heist drama formula, recycling the same tropes with the sole aim of entertaining audiences.
Why Ocean’s Eleven is Great
Let’s be honest: Ocean’s Eleven does suffer from every single one of the issues highlighted above. It follows the heist drama formula to the letter, both its main twist and its ending are pretty easy to predict, and there are underdeveloped characters and painful character traits that the movie could have done without. But revolutionary storytelling is not the reason why we love watching heist films: what makes the genre so popular to this day is that it’s incredibly rewarding and satisfying to see underdogs achieve the impossible, possibly by engaging in criminal actions but for a noble purpose, and with impressive precision and impeccable timing. We don’t watch these movies to find out whether or not our heroes will pull off the heist of the century: it’s more of a matter of how they will do it, and how it will make us feel to watch them succeed. Though some heist films also managed to revolutionise the genre – think of Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs and its non-linear structure, most still follow the same archetype, focusing on the execution of the robbery and aiming to purely entertain audiences.
And, though Ocean’s Eleven might isn’t revolutionary plot-wise, it’s certainly an entertaining, crowd-pleasing movie that gives audiences the chance to follow its heroes on the heist and makes us feel just as fulfilled when Danny and his Eleven achieve their goal. Not only that, but the film’s stellar cast absolutely works in its favour, making you want to rewatch the movie if only to spend time to your favorite stars. There’s also a lot of humor in it – think of Reuben’s account of the three nearly-successful Las Vegas robberies, or of Danny and Rusty’s banter, as well as a great score from David Holmes, immersive camerawork from Steven Soderbergh, and a romantic subplot involving Julia Roberts that is bound to make you smile.
Ocean’s Eleven is not the best movie you’ll ever see, but there’s a reason if it’s such a favorite amongst audiences. Even though it follows the heist formula without adding much new to the genre, it’s ultimately a well-crafted, well-acted film with a lot of heart, an the pleasure of watching it comes from spending time with its characters and watching them succeed.