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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Hollywood Rewind | Ocean’s Eleven: A witty, entertaining heist film led by a charming George Clooney

Witty, sharp and thoroughly entertaining, Ocean's 11 might be the most frivolous fun director Steven Soderbergh has had.

Written by Anvita Singh | New Delhi |
Updated: April 4, 2022 8:29:29 am
hollywood rewindOcean's Eleven released in 2001. (Photo: Warner Bros)

English philosopher and statesman Francis Bacon had long ago said something sharp, precise and universal about the experience of reading books: “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously; and some few are to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.” This can be true of any art form, and rings more truly for movies than anything else.

Steven Soderbergh’s 2001 heist dramedy Ocean’s Eleven falls in the second category; the George Clooney and Brad Pitt feature is to be swallowed, and one does that with pleasure. The very definition of a popcorn entertainer, Ocean’s Eleven is a stylish multistarrer that allows enough space for its lead stars to shine and others to have a blast. The writing is witty and to-the-point, the film gallops gracefully at a runtime of almost two hours.

Out on parole, Danny Ocean contrives to pull off an elaborate crime — a heist at a casino. He begins recruiting, starting with close associate and partner-in-crime Rusty (Brad Pitt). Danny just has a couple of rules he wants his cronies to abide by: Do not hurt anyone, and don’t steal from the one who do not deserve it, very Robin Hood-esque of him. The calmness that Danny conducts himself with sets the tune for the entire narrative — it’s leisurely, but never boring. Just like Danny himself then, who comes across as a chill guy, with something interesting always up his sleeve.

With a bevy of actors featuring in the cast, one would think that egos ran high on the sets of the movie; actors trying to steal more screen time and the works. However, lead star Clooney had earlier told GQ that everyone gelled together well and seemed to enjoy the experience of working with so many artistes on one project — “The funny thing about that gang is there was literally no ego involved in it. And there’s a funny thing you see, and you can see it in the way the scenes play. There was no actor in those scenes trying to steal scenes. They’re all kind of actively trying to hand it to the other guy. There was this generosity of spirit, and throwing things away in such a way that it’s so easy-going and so fun.” And it is this dynamic that one witnesses while watching the film, especially the kind of camaraderie Clooney, Pitt and Matt Damon shared with each other.

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Perhaps what can rival the movie’s fun quotient is its equally entertaining behind-the-scene stories. One particular one which never seems to get old is how Clooney convinced Julia Roberts to be a part of the project. Julia, at the time of the making of Ocean’s Eleven, was apparently getting paid the handsome sum of $20 million per movie. So imagine her surprise when her colleague George sent a $20 bill to her as an ice-breaker. Yes, the now fast friends did not know each other at all prior to the film’s shooting. They knew of each other of course, but that was that.

Hollywood Rewind: Searching | The Imitation Game | Bend it Like Beckham | Matilda | Mad Max:Fury Road | When a Man Loves a Woman | Inside Out | Django Unchained | Bridesmaids | Howl’s Moving Castle | A Simple Favor | How to Train Your Dragon | Freaky Friday | DisturbiaSpider-Man Into the Spider-Verse | Free Willy | Carrie | Crash | Persepolis | The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants | Philadelphia | Mrs Doubtfire | Easy A | Romeo + Juliet | Coraline | Gone Girl | Starship Troopers | Bridget Jones’s Diary | Almost Famous | Inglourious Basterds | Beginners | Girl With a Pearl Earring | Juno | Nightcrawler | Little Miss Sunshine | Moana | The Sound of Music | Benny and Joon | Crimson Peak | The Holiday | My Blueberry Nights | The Help | Mission Impossible | Chef | Revolutionary Road | I’m Not There | Donnie Brasco | Sicario | Edge of Tomorrow | Spy Kids | 1998’s Godzilla | The Others | Phone Booth | Wild | Scream | The Godfather Part II | One Fine Day | True Romance | Little Women | Face-off | Pulp Fiction | Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon | The Age of Innocence | Mean Girls | Die HardNever Been Kissed | Citizen Kane | Kill Bill Volume I | Terminator 2 Judgment Day | Titanic | Heat | Home Alone | Jerry Maguire | Brief Encounter | The Truman Show | The Deer Hunter | The Shining | Clueless | Ferris Bueller’s Day Off | Blue Velvet | Taxi Driver | The Lord of the Rings I | Zero Dark Thirty | The Godfather | Say Anything | Warm Bodies | Bright Star | Malcolm X | Stardust | Red Eye | Notting Hill | FargoThe Virgin Suicides | The Breakfast Club | Enchanted | Walk the Line | Blood Diamond | Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban | Mortal Kombat | Bridges of Madison County | Edward Scissorhands | Breakfast at Tiffany’s | She’s Gotta Have It | Ever After | The Devil Wears Prada | The Matrix | Creed | Mulan | Ratatouille | Shutter Island | Her | Dead Poets Society | Sleepless in Seattle | Waitress | Pride and Prejudice | The Dark Knight | Before Sunset | School of Rock | About a Boy | A Few Good Men | 50/50 | Begin Again | Brooklyn | Drive | Chocolat | Batman Begins | 10 Things I Hate About You | The Departed | Freedom Writers | Pretty Woman | Dan in Real Life | Jurassic Park | TangledMeet Joe Black | Monster’s Ball | Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind | You’ve Got Mail | Half Nelson | Fight Club | Doubt | American Psycho | Julie and Julia | Forrest Gump | The Silence of the Lambs | Finding Neverland | Roman Holiday| American History X | Tropic Thunder | Before Sunrise | Scent of a Woman | Finding Forrester | Sixteen Candles

“I remember Julia, I didn’t know her. I’d never met her, and she was making $20 million a film. And we just talked Brad [Pitt] into doing it, and Matt into doing it, and we wanted Julia to do it. So I put a $20 bill on the script and I sent it to her, and I said, ‘I hear you get 20 a picture now,” Clooney said in the same interview. This is the vibe of the movie throughout its duration of two hours — funny, smart and charming.

Ocean’s Eleven was received well by both critics and the audience, and ended up raking in $450 million of its comparatively modest $85 million budget.

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