Monday, June 17, 2019

You're Either In or You're Out

Ocean's Eleven
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Cast: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Julia Roberts, Don Cheadle, Carl Reiner, Elliot Gould, Bernie Mac, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan
Released: December 7, 2001
Viewed in theaters: December 18, 2001

Ocean's Eleven is a fun movie. It's also a ridiculous movie if you really stop to think about it. I mean, there's no way that eleven people could ever simultaneously rob three Las Vegas casinos in one night such as they did in this movie. Once we get introduced to the characters and the plot for the con, you can just sit back and enjoy the ride. 

Danny Ocean (George Clooney) has just been released from prison (for attempted robbery, as we will soon see that is what he likes to do) and decides he wants to rob the Bellagio, the Mirage, and the MGM Grand casinos all in one night. I mean, why be so greedy? Why not just rob one of the places? There is a reason why he is targeting these three particular casinos. Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), the man who owns these casinos is involved with Danny's ex-wife, Tess (Julia Roberts) and even though he says this isn't about her, it's totally about her.

He reunites with his partner-in-crime pal, Rusty (Brad Pitt) where he tells him his idea and they recruit a handful of men to help him with the job. They all have a role to play in the heist; some are a little more important than others. They need someone to help finance the heist and with casino security knowledge so they go to an old friend, Reuben (Elliot Gould) who once owned a casino of his own. Terry Benedict is a rival of his, so he's happy to help with the heist. I assumed he helped pay for the replica of the vault they reconstruct and he offers his home as a sort of headquarters, but other than that, he really doesn't help with the actual heist. You always need a tech guy in a heist like this so this is where Livingston Dell (Eddie Jamison) comes in. He is in charge of all the electronics and surveillance. He has to sneak into the security room to set up cameras so the crew can see what's going on. Of course we get the inevitable scene with him where it looks like he's about to get caught by a security guard, but instead he gives him something back he forget and asks him a question about how the wires are working. They need someone with explosive knowledge when it comes times to blow the vault door open so Basher (Don Cheadle) is recruited He will also help when they need to turn off the electricity in the city for under a minute. For some reason, they made him British and he talks in this really heavy accent which is hard to understand at times. I was really surprised when they replaced Don Cheadle with Terrance Howard in the other two movies. The Malloy brothers, Turk and Virgil (Casey Affleck and Scoot Caan; I'm not sure who play who) come in handy as drivers and just help with little things, such as pretending to get into a fight at the casino when one lets go of a bunch of balloons to block a security camera. They're just sort of there to assist with small little details. Rusty flies to Florida to convince con man Saul (Carl Reiner) to join them. He will come up with an elaborate story to fool Benedict. Somebody needs to fit into a small money cart that will be wheeled into the vault room (aka the room where all the money is!) so they hire Yen (Qin Shaobo) of "The Amazing Yen" after they see his acrobat show in Vegas. He's very small and limber and can bend his body in ridiculous ways so he's the perfect person to fit into a small box. Danny gets a card dealer he knows, Frank (Bernie Mac), to be transferred from Atlantic City to Vegas so he can cause a diversion later on. I guess he's the closest thing they have to an inside man. Last, but not least, they feel like they need one more person so Danny travels to Chicago where he finds Linus (Matt Damon), after observing his pickpocketing skills. These skills will come in handy with their heists.

When Danny and Rusty propose their idea to Reuben, he tells them robbing a Las Vegas casino (let alone three!) can't be done and tells them about the three closest times anyone's ever come close to robbing a casino. One happened in the sixties, one in the '71, and one in '87. Each time the perpetrator gets a little bit closer to getting a step outside (in fact the '87 guy actually does get outside), but none get away with the crime. I like how this scene is shot: each scene is shot in correspondence to how that time period would look on film (compete with what everyone is wearing and the lighting), the music matches the era ("Take My Breath Away" is played for the '87 con).

Turns out Benedict keeps all the money in the Bellagio's vault, so while they are still robbing three casinos, they only need to do it one place. At least that's a little more much as this movie can be realistic! They plan to hit the casino on the same night a big boxing match is being held in Vegas because they know that will bring in a lot of gamblers with all the tourists coming to see the fight (not to mention all the celebrities) and all casinos are supposed to always have a set amount of money on hand so they will have enough. They estimate there will be 160 million dollars in the vault that night and will divide the money eleven ways. The fight will be held in two weeks so that's how much time they have to prepare. In order to do that, Linus goes to the casino everyday where he observes every move Benedict makes and where he is at all times. Lucky for him (and everyone else), this guy has a very set schedule and does the same thing everyday, at the precise minute right down to going to the bathroom. Seems quite convenient for our con artists! This is also when we're introduced to Tess, who works as the curator at a museum at one of the hotels, and Rusty finds out the real reason why Danny is so set on stealing from three casinos that belong to Benedict.

They build a replica of the vault so they can practice with Yen in the money-cart. This is the most dangerous part of the job because he will only have thirty minutes before he runs out of air so they need to make sure he gets where he needs to be in time so he won't suffocate. They also use this replica to make sure he can jump from the cart to another location without signaling the laser lights. While they do get blue prints to the vault, I find it hard to believe they would know the exact replica of it. And exactly how much did it cost to build this replica? If they had an inside man, this would make more sense. They do mention the Frank provided some information, but I doubt a blackjack dealer who just started working there would know all this information! Maybe I'm putting too much thought into this as this is a movie you're just supposed to watch and enjoy.

I do love the scene where the eleven of them are meeting in Vegas for the first time at Reuben's house going over the plan. Yen, who knows very, very little English, asks something in Chinese and Rusty answers him (in English, but still impressive that he knew what Yen was asking) with a very detailed answer. The look on Basher's face as Rusty is answering him is highly amusing.

Saul has a very good question. He wants to know if they get though the security doors and down an elevator they can't move and pass security guards with guns and though a vault that's pretty much impossible to open and not be seen by the cameras, that they're just supposed to walk out of there with all that money. Danny simply answers, "Yes" and Saul seems satisfied with that. Now, of course they don't want to give anything away with how they do plan to do this. As a viewer, I'm screaming at my screen because I want to know, but presumably Danny and Rusty tell everyone their idea off camera.

Danny has been red-flagged by Benedict himself because he has come to see Tess so Benedict knows he's in town and doesn't want him in his hotel. All security will be watching him when he sets foot in the casino. Of course, this is all part of Danny's grand scheme because he thought of everything. They play it off like it's a problem, but Danny knows what he's doing. This is when everyone else (who knows Danny used to be married to Tess) find out about Tess's involvement and there's a funny line where Saul says, "Tess is with Benedict now? She's too tall for him!"

There's an elevator that requires a six digit passcode every so many hours and this is where Linus will come in and will swipe the codes from Benedict being the stealthy pickpocket he is. They will need to turn the laser lights in the elevator shaft off in order to go through it. Basher suggests a device called a pinch (which they steal from The California Institute of Advanced Science) which can shut off all the power in Las Vegas for thirty seconds. While this is going on, Danny and Linus are doing a Mission: Impossible type move where they have to rappel down the elevator shaft before the lights turn back on. When the electricity comes back on thirty seconds later you see that everyone at the fight has become rowdy, so Terry and Tess leave. The patrons at the casino have also gone crazy and it turns into a free for all. Nobody seems to question that the electricity has gone out and there's not even a storm to justify it.

This is the type of movie where you know nothing bad is going to happen and that our protagonist are going to get away with this ridiculous task of stealing $160 millions from a highly guarded casino. You don't know how they're going to do it, but you know it's going to happen. There may be a few hiccups along the way (and we see plenty of them!), but you know they're going to get out of any jams they may find themselves in. You're really not sure what's going to happen until it folds out on screen, so it's fun to see the twists and turns they take. I had forgotten about how they planned to walk out with all the money, but I have to wonder, where did they get SWAT uniforms and trucks? Did Reuben provide those too? Did they share a cut with someone who provided those for them?

There is an amusing running joke throughout the film, where in each new scene he's in, Rusty is usually eating some type of food. I remember seeing nachos, a fruit cup, shrimp cocktail (very Vegas-y), ice cream, and a burger. And those are just the ones I remember off the top of my head.

Something I've never noticed before was during the credits (probably because I never watched the end credits), after they credit everyone, it ends with, "And introducing Julia Roberts as Tess". Obviously this was a joke/Easter egg because she was already a huge star by then and had already been in many, many famous movies and had won her Oscar the previous year. It just made me do a double take when I saw that!

I've seen this movie a handful of times, but I've only seen Ocean's Twelve and Ocean's Thirteen once. I don't remember anything about either of them except that I didn't enjoy watching them and thought they were a bit boring, or at least not as fun a the first one. There is one part I remember about the second movie and that's when Tess pretends to be Julia Roberts as she bares a striking resemblance to her...because she IS Julia Roberts, haha. I don't remember why she had to pretend to be the famous actress, but it was an amusing scene, although you have to wonder...if Julia Roberts exists in the same world as these characters, then why not George Clooney or Brad Pitt or Matt Damon? How come nobody mistakes Danny, Rusty, or Linus for those famous actors? I also saw the spin-off,Ocean's Eight, where Sandra Bullocks play Danny's sister and she recruits her own team of thieves to rob jewelry at the Met Gala. While not as good as the original (and while I know the 2001 is a remake of a 1960 movie of the same name with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr, I consider the 2001 film the original because nobody ever talks about the 1960 movie or probably even knows it exists because the 2001 film is much more well known; heck, I didn't even know this was a remake until several years later!), I did enjoy it more than the sequels. My only gripe (and spoilers for Ocean's Eight about to come) is that they make this big deal how all these women were able to pull off his huge con, but psyche! Yen from the other movies was there all along (recruited by Sandra Bullock unbeknownst to the viewing audience) and helped them with a major part of the scheme. I was like, seriously? I know they wanted to have a fun cameo from the other Ocean movies, but I groaned out loud when I saw that. 

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