Wednesday, 31 August 2011

100 days, 100 films; Day 75 - Ocean's Eleven

#26 - Ocean's Eleven

As soon as I mentioned to my brother that this film was on my list he turned his nose up and said I couldn’t have a remake on it. I guess everyone does have a biased attitude towards remakes considering that a lot of the time they are unnecessary and sometimes downright pointless (Psycho, The Fog, King Kong). But not all remakes are awful since you can’t generalise them all like that. I mean if the original film was awful or average then maybe the remake would be a lot better (Freaky Friday, The Parent Trap, Carrie). Now I’m not saying the original version of this was awful since I haven’t seen it (and have no desire to) but I saw this and I enjoyed it, and I’m not going to hate on it just because it’s a remake. Questions? Comments? Nope, let’s roll...

Danny Ocean is just released from prison after four years (according to him, after his wife left him he went on a “self-destructive” streak) and on his first day out he contacts an old friend Rusty Ryan. He has a proposition for him – in two weeks on the night of a much hyped boxing match he plans to rob three Las Vegas casinos at once. This seems like a near-impossible feat to achieve and finding a financier but they strike gold with former casino owner Reuben Tishkoff who happens to have something against the owner of all three casinos Terry Benedict. Reuben helps bring together a team of seven more geniuses, each needed for a special purpose to help in robbing the $8 million stored in the big vault. But, just before they are about to pull off the heist, Rusty spies a familiar woman acting very cosy with Benedict. It of course is none other than Danny’s ex-wife Tess.

Now let me just say that this film is not intended to be anything other than good popcorn fun. There’s nothing wrong with that of course and the film is really just an excuse to get an all-star cast together and have fun, which was the point of the original too – get the Rat Pack together on screen. George Clooney plays Danny and Julia Roberts plays Tess. These two have really shocking chemistry together. In a film that’s just meant to be there to have big movie stars together, you don’t really expect a relationship to seem natural but theirs does, and the two bounce lines of each other so well. Their scenes together are unusually well-written and like I said, the two of them fit together really well to make Danny/Tess a pairing that the audience actually wants to root for. Brad Pitt plays Rusty and has almost equal chemistry with George so that the fun comes from listening to Danny and Rusty’s witty conversations. Plus I like his hairstyle. Matt Damon plays Linus Caldwell, a sort of actor type they bring in to do impersonation jobs. Normally Matt plays guys who are more in-control of their situations but it’s good to see him playing a bit of a bumbler. Friends fans may recognise Elliot “Jack Gellar” Gould as Reuben though he doesn’t have that big of a role. There’s also a nice fun scene near the start where Rusty is teaching TV stars to play poker and we have cameos from Joshua Jackson (Dawson’s Creek), Topher Grace (That 70s Show), Barry Watson (7th Heaven), Shane West (Once & Again) and Holly Marie Combs (Charmed). They are all truly awful at poker.

I want to get the negativity out of the way now so I’m going to completely bash the guy playing Basher, Don Cheadle to be specific. I’ve never liked him as an actor and the only film he’s been bearable in is Hotel Rwanda. He isn’t even credited in this film so I feel that is probably a judging of how annoying he was in the film. It seems he was fresh out of the Dick Van Dyke School for God-Awful English Accents because what comes out of his mouth can only be described as a fail of epic proportions. I seriously can’t believe the director actually made him use this accent and kept it in the final film. Apparently Ewan McGregor was up for the role and sorry Don but he would have been a much better choice. There’s also a weird scene where Linus sees Tess coming down the stairs and says “this is the best part of my day” as though he’s about to have an orgasm. Julia Roberts is alright looking but she is not a sex goddess so having the other characters act as though she’s Venus De Milo personified just comes across as a little self-indulgent. If she had been wearing something sexy then maybe it would be justified but no she descends the staircase in a modest and unflattering business suit, though she does look much nicer at the end of the film. I’m not going to go into detail on the amount of plot holes in here because this film isn’t meant to be taken that seriously and they can’t go having a realistic casino heist on film can they? Why that would give the children bad ideas.
The entire heist sequence is just so much fun to watch as you see it all come together in its entirety. It might be stretching the truth more than a little but I still enjoyed watching it, especially with how they eventually get into the vault. I nearly burst out laughing when Brad Pitt appeared on screen in a pair of glasses and an obvious wig, pretending to be a doctor. The scene where Linus has to fool Benedict is hilarious when he gets into a staged argument with Frank, their inside man in the casino and he pretends to play the angry black man (“they might as well call it white-jack”). 
The dinner scene between Danny, Tess and Benedict is pretty fun to watch especially for that “oh crap” expression Tess has on her face when she sees Danny for the first time. It’s chock full of witty dialogue and great on screen presence, reminding me almost of that James/Vesper scene from Casino Royale that I love heaping praise upon. There’s also a beautiful shot near the end of the film after they’ve pulled off the heist (whoops, spoiled it for you) where the ten (minus Danny) are grouped around the fountains and it goes into a slow-motion shot of each person reacting to what they’ve just pulled off. We get a lot of good shots of the lights and scenery of Las Vegas as well, for those who like that sort of thing.

I think I know why I liked this film so much as a kid (I was only nine when it came out so give me a break) and that’s probably because one of my favourite board games was “Break The Safe” and I remember thinking that Ocean’s Eleven was actually a movie made of that. And what kid has never played at least one heist game with their friends? Anyway, going back to the remake argument that I started in the introduction, this does go to show that not all remakes are bad. Dawn of the Dead was a good remake as well and there are numerous other good ones out there, probably hiding since positivity doesn’t make for entertaining criticism. This has been one of the more successful and widely praised remakes and it shows that, when there’s effort and thought put into a remake then it can do just fine, as it the case with any film really. It does help if you don’t become a film snob and turn your nose up at a remake purely because it’s a remake. I mean every film deserves a chance, right? Well that’s it for my campaign speech in favour of the remakes so follow me on Twitter and join me again tomorrow. Bobby out!

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