Connor Loyd is a movie critic for the Samford Crimson. The views expressed in this opinion article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Samford Crimson or Samford University.
As the great John “Hannibal” Smith once said, “I love it when a plan comes together.” And he’s certainly not alone. Everyone enjoys watching as each domino falls in just the right way, as each cog in a machine works towards a goal greater than itself. Watching puzzle pieces fall perfectly into place is especially satisfying if you can get behind the “why?” of the plan and not just the “how?” This is why heist movies, when done well, can be so compelling. And the argument can easily be made that 2001’s “Ocean’s Eleven” is the quintessential heist film.
“Ocean’s Eleven” is a remake of the 1960 Rat-Pack film of the same name. Like the original, the plot follows Danny Ocean and his plan to simultaneously rob multiple Las Vegas casinos over the course of one night with the help of 10 fellow thieves. However, almost every other aspect of this film deviates from the original.
Taking over the role of Danny Ocean from the original’s Frank Sinatra is George Clooney, who is joined by the likes of Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Don Cheadle, among many other acting heavy-hitters. The cast seems to understand the appeal of the genre, namely just how much fun it can be to listen to knowledgeable people talk about something they’re very good at. They make sure to capitalize on this fascination during their discussions involving the intricate ins-and-outs of a “profession” most will never get anywhere near to experiencing in real life. The dialogue is endlessly quotable and incredibly funny, and every member of the team gets their moment to shine.
The film has a compelling, emotional heart at its center that keeps the audience rooting for the crew amidst the complex plot and morally questionable goals. It manages to make the criminals endearing even as they scheme and rob. It’s difficult to get a good balance between character and story, with many movies leaning too far in to focus on one side or the other. The best films know how to create that balance, which makes “Ocean’s Eleven” one of the best.
The eventual pay-off at the end of the film is extremely satisfying to watch, both as an emotional ending and simply as a fun “plot twist” of sorts. Seeing individual pieces come back as the full plan suddenly becomes clear to the audience is a really fun moment that takes a lot of careful set-up to pull off well.
The movie is directed by Steven Soderbergh, who really plays around and has fun with the film. His style can get fairly experimental without ever losing its mass appeal, which is a rare balance that’s difficult to pull off. Soderbergh is known for wearing many hats on his film sets, often operating cameras and editing his films after shooting each day, essentially assembling a rough cut while production is still in progress. You can see his fingerprints all over the film, and while that might not be ideal in an actual heist, it’s very refreshing to see in a heist film.