The Ocean's Remake which isn't the Pitts
Remakes are a dodgy area, often not wanted by movie lovers because too often they tamper with a much loved Hollywood classic and balls it right up. It's rare that they get it right but in the case of the "Ocean's Eleven" remake starring George Clooney and Brad Pitt they actually managed to make a better movie than the original, which to be frank wasn't that hard. Soderbergh's 2001 version of the Las Vegas heist movie is a pacey, heavily stylized and a humorous jaunt through the heist movie genre, playing it serious with just the right amount of irony to be amusing and thank god entertaining.
For those who have never seen the 1960 original "Ocean's Eleven" it was a movie that had just one thing going for it, it starred the Rat-Pack; Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop. Other than its star names it was a rather slow heist movie with a touch of comedy and a lot of singing, which isn't that surprising. It never really worked, and although not terrible was the perfect sort of movie which was ripe for being remade.
In "Ocean's Eleven" George Clooney stars as Danny Ocean who having just been paroled wastes no time as he wants to score the biggest robbery in history. Along with 10 other criminals including Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt - Meet Joe Black), Saul Bloom (Carl Reiner - The Jerk) and Basher Tarr (Don Cheadle - Swordfish) they set about a cunning plan to rob 3 Las Vegas casinos all in one night, The Mirage, The Bellagio and the MGM Grand all which happen to be owned by ruthless boss Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia - Desperate Measures). But with such a major heist it's never going to be simple, especially walking out of there alive with over $150 million.
"Ocean's Eleven" follows a simple storyline a group of criminals are put together to pull of a big heist by robbing three casino's at once. There are sub plots, a romance and a rivalry to name just two but essentially it is a very simple affair. Which is a good thing as if it was trying to be complex it would have failed because even the simple storyline is full of contrivances and plot holes. But it doesn't actually matter than things come together so easily and things happen which shouldn't in the real world because its fun, it's entertaining and the storyline is never anything more than the background to the performances and action. Although saying that it's not just a straight forward romp from A to B, there is certain amount of double bluffs and guessing games which does keep you wondering where it will all end up, even though deep down the outcome is very much expected.
What really carries "Ocean's Eleven" and makes it enjoyable is a blend of pace, comedy and action. There is barely a moment in the movie where it seems to grind to a halt let alone lull in between big scenes and this is what really helps lift it from just being a remake. It also helps that there appears to be a great camaraderie between all the stars bouncing off each other with a natural flow which makes it feel less scripted and more adlib. But it is the action and humour which raises it's game with the latter being the most significant reason. It's fully of dry wit; a few gags and a lot of irony which may not make you burst out in fits of giggles but will make you laugh to yourself.
As for the action well it's full of set pieces many of which are just a little over the top but great fun and often humorous such as when Danny can't get the explosive detonator to work. Again none of it is clever but in it's simplicity it works because it is amusing.
But the real big reason why "Ocean's Eleven" works and is such a popular movie is in it's cavalcade of stars who as already mentioned all work well together bouncing off each other whilst sharing the limelight. Of course the big stars are George Clooney and Brad Pitt who play Danny Ocean and Rusty Ryan respectively and between them they manage to give it a feeling of being a rat pack movie, but in a positive way. There off screen friendship shows on screen and between the two there is so much charisma that it can be overwhelming.
But it's not just Clooney and Pitt who make the movie and with the likes of Elliot Gould, Carl Reiner, Bernie Mac, Don Cheadle, Matt Damon, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Andy Garcia and even Julia Roberts in a supporting role the list of star names is impressive. But it is the impressive way that they all work together, never stealing the limelight from one another whilst also making interesting often humorous characters which really stand out.
Although many will not notice it, "Ocean's Eleven" also tips it hat to the original with blink and you will miss it parts for Henry Silva and Angie Dickinson who starred in the 1960 version.
What this all boils down to is that "Ocean's Eleven" is one of the rare remakes which actually works and is better than the original. The underlying story may be your basic heist but it is the humour, action and the camaraderie of the stars which brings it all together. It will have you laughing, maybe not out loud but at least to yourself and although is pretty predictable will throw enough twists to keep you interested in what happens.