Here is a movie so giddy in its self-confidence, so disarmingly charming and fun, that most will likely skip over the fact that, well...it's not particularly substancial. It's one of those movies that I found so impossibly entertaining and well-crafted that I'd sit through it again after I'd watched it the first time. That's not even saying it's perfect - it's simply saying that this is a picture that contains fantastic performances and, like one of the boxers in the fight in the film towards the end, spars and keeps the audience guessing what plot point it's going to swing with next.
The film is, of course, a remake of a Rat Pack vehicle that many considered to not be a particularly great movie in the first place. Yet, director/cinematographer Steven Soderberg has given the plot the funk and rhythm that it neeeds, orchestrating this piece with such light grace that it moves like the wind.
George Clooney plays Danny Ocean, who has just been released from prison and begins planning his next heist that same day. The job: rob the impossible - an underground vault in Vegas where 150 million dollars awaits them. For a job like this, he'll certainly need more than simply himself: Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt), Frank Catton (Bernie Mac), Bashir Tarr (Don Cheadle), Linus Caldwell (Matt Damon), Saul Bloom (Carl Reiner), Reuben Tishkoff (Elliot Gould), Turk and Virgil Malloy (Scott Caan and Casey Affleck), Livingston Dell (Eddie Jemison), and Yen (Shaobo Qin). The vault stores the money from the Bellagio, the Mirage, and the MGM Grand, but Ocean is under the belief that they can walk in and walk out of one of the most tightly secured places in the country. The second job: Danny also happens to be there to win back ex-wife, Tess (Julia Roberts), who just happens to be with the owner of the three casinos, Benedict (Andy Garcia).
And so it goes, the plan comes into being, step-by-step. The details are delightful, as the planning pieces are fun and entertaining and the elements that make up the caper itself are enjoyable to watch and sometimes unexpected. This is a movie that, thankfully, attempts to throw the audience for a loop (instead of showing them what they've seen before in countless other movies, in an embarassingly unenergetic fashion, like this past Summer's "The Score").
The performances are nothing less than superb throughout. Clooney, who I'd said was not a particularly good actor as little as four or five years ago, has quickly become one of the better actors working today, able to be both immensely funny and wonderfully dramatic. Brad Pitt has been following along in similar fashion and contributes a similarly terrific effort here. Cheadle, Bernie Mac, Gould and Reiner also give solid support. Damon doesn't do a whole lon and Caan and Affleck simply argue. Suprisingly, Julia Roberts doesn't have a particularly great deal to do either, on-hand for a few scenes here and there to work fairly well with Clooney, but this is really the weakest element of the picture. The two don't really generate major sparks and Roberts doesn't seem particularly energetic. It works well enough not to derail portions of the movie, but thankfully, it's not a particularly big part of it and it works well enough that this subplot is generally satisfactory.
The film is also technically pleasing; shiny (but not too involved in its own slick look), well-filmed by Soderberg, who also again serves as cinematographer on his own film and boasting a snappy score. This film could have rounded up the stars and sat back, but it didn't - it grooves, it works, it really has energy and tries to entertain. It's good strong, clever dialogue (by Ted Griffin) and great delivery from everyone involved. It's fun with a capital F. It's not without a few minor concerns, but it's wonderfully involving and I look forward to seeing it again - soon.