When I think about what makes Ocean’s Eleven so special, the same scene always comes to mind. It’s nothing particularly flashy: a 30-second shot of Brad Pitt and George Clooney at a bar, with Pitt burying his face in his arms as Clooney’s character asks whether they need an 11th crew member for their heist of the century. Silence. Finally, Clooney remarks to himself, “You think we need one more…alright, we’ll get one more.”
The moment doesn’t draw attention to itself, yet the effortless chemistry between the actors elevates the scene to a level that makes it just as integral to the movie’s swagger as its sizzling montages — a swagger that not only cements Ocean’s Eleven as one of the coolest movies ever made, but the golden standard for heist movies.
I’ll start with the actual heist of it all. Simply put, you just won’t find a better movie heist on the face of the planet. The sheer ambition of the heist — robbing multiple of Vegas’s premiere casinos on fight night — is ridiculous enough to make you wonder how on earth it could be attempted, yet the fun lies in seeing just how orchestrated this plan is when it all comes together in the final 30 minutes. It’s a plan that manages to be both bonkers, brilliant, and the type of thing that could only exist in the movies, which is something I say in the most affectionate way possible. None of the movie’s many set-ups and payoffs would work if it weren’t for how perfectly everything precedes the heist, whether it be the ‘getting the team together’ montage or the deliberate sleight-of-hand it plays on the audience. The movie even gives you a formidable villain in Anthony Garcia’s character, who bears a smugness and personal relation to Clooney’s character that gives you something tangible to root against when it’s all going down in the third act.
Of course, any heist is only as good as its respective crew, which is where Ocean’s Eleven shines. Seeing this collection of A-list actors at the peak of their stardom is a joy to watch, and you can just tell they’re just having plain fun. It would be impossible for me to pay respect to every cast member, but of particular note is how well Clooney plays off the entire cast, whether it be Brad Pitt as his long-time partner-in-crime or Julia Roberts as the former love he is trying to win back. At a time when Hollywood and audiences are increasingly placing less importance in the idea of a ‘movie star’, Ocean’s Eleven serves as a tribute to the power of assembling an ensemble cast of genuine all-stars, letting them have a ball, and letting the audience have a great time along with them.
As far as popcorn entertainment goes, it doesn’t get much better than this for me. This is a movie that knows exactly what it is, never taking itself too seriously while still flexing its style along the way and getting every detail right from the performances and reveals, all the way to the transitions and camera movements; it’s a Vegas jackpot of movie fun.