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Steven Soderbergh has had a very successful couple of years, culminating in Oscar success with Erin Brockovich and Traffic which catapulted him into the big league. Both films gained huge recognition and built up the director’s fan base at the same time. The same fans all looked forward to his next movie, expecting another clever emotionally driven storyline. What they were given was Ocean’s Eleven, which was thought of by most as a complete change of direction for Soderbergh. Ocean’s Eleven is a remake of the 60s "Rat Pack" crime caper of the same name, which is considered to be a tame effort. Soderbergh decided to revamp the story and create a star-studded version. The cast list is a director’s dream and includes George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Matt Damon, and Andy Garcia. Those five actors/actresses could probably command over $50 million dollars in wages, so it wasn’t a great surprise to see apprehension from some quarters about the financial sense of remaking the movie. The director used his powers of persuasion to convince the cast to take pay-cuts, and what we are treated to is a pleasurable movie. This is a review of the region two release.

Ocean's Eleven
Movie
Danny Ocean (George Clooney) has just finished doing time in prison, but his passion for crime is still strong. No sooner has he walked out of the prison door, he is looking to organise his next ‘job’. The authorities are sceptical about his release, and so ensure that the paroled conman contacts them regularly to update them with his whereabouts. However, this doesn’t stop Danny from contacting some of his old buddies to see if they fancy pulling off another score. The gradual round-up of his contacts eventually leads Danny to Rusty (Brad Pitt), who is one of his best friends. Danny has elaborate plans to rob three casinos, The Bellagio, The Mirage and the MGM Grand, all of which are situated in Las Vegas. All three casinos also happen to be owned by Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia).

Danny persuades eleven specialised crooks (Ocean’s Eleven) to help him complete the score. Included in the group are pickpocket Linus Caldwell (Matt Damon), brothers Virgil (Casey Affleck) and Turk Malloy (Scott Caan) and Chinese acrobat Yen (Shaobo Qin). All members are chosen for their particular skills which are needed to pull off the job successfully. Danny chooses to rob the casinos on fight night, when there will be an estimated one hundred and fifty millions dollars stored in the safes. Obviously as in most heist movies there are complications and this film is no different. The obstacle arrives in the form of Tess Ocean (Julia Roberts) who used to be married to Danny, but is now an associate of Terry Benedict. Love always gets in the way, and Danny finds himself torn between completing the job he has arranged or chasing the woman he still loves.

There is no doubt that the reason for the resounding success of Ocean’s Eleven lies firmly at the feet of the cast. Such a mixture of talent is bound to make even a standard movie into something watchable. Thankfully Steven Soderbergh revamped the plot, so that the cast have an interesting storyline to work with as well. I am a fan of George Clooney, as I find that he has great screen presence and seems to add a touch of class to every part he plays. He is no different in the role of Danny Ocean, and is very believable as the organiser of the score. This was a role made for George to play. Brad Pitt is also impressive as Rusty, who is a calmer character than Danny Ocean. Also worth mention is Andy Garcia, who has the task of playing the hated casino owner Terry Benedict. Garcia is totally convincing, and makes the character someone who you are glad is targeted. This obviously strengthened the appeal of the film. There are no weak links as far as the cast are concerned, with all members interacting well on screen.

Ocean's Eleven
You will find that I refer to Ocean’s Eleven as being a stylish film throughout this review, and that is exactly what it is. As described later on in this review, a great deal of effort went into creating the look of this movie. From the way Steven Soderbergh went about filming each scene through to the costume designs, there is a feeling that this movie was made to entertain. A lot of effort went into the dialogue, with snappy and effective one-liners creating intense scenes which should capture your attention. If you fancy watching a movie which requires very little thought, but is well acted and has a solid script, then Ocean’s Eleven is for you. One way to judge the quality of a film is to see if it is as entertaining the second time around, which Ocean’s Eleven certainly turned out to be. Highly recommended.    

Video
Ocean’s Eleven is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, which is almost flawless. The image is sharp and crisp, with no obvious damage to the print. I recall watching the movie when it was released in the cinema, and the vibrant use of colours stood out. The same can be said for the DVD transfer, with colours being displayed accurately and appearing vibrant throughout. Considering that most of the movie is set in a casino, the black levels need to be spot-on and they are indeed solid throughout, with flesh tones also accurately portrayed. Edge enhancements were nowhere to be seen and compression artifacts were kept to a minimum. Overall a very impressive transfer

Audio
Being a new release I was expecting a pretty lively soundtrack, but was left feeling slightly disappointed. Warner have provided four soundtracks on this disc, with the English Dolby Digital 5.1 being the highlight. The dialogue is clear throughout which is essential, considering that the movie relies heavily on snazzy, maximum impact lines. However where I was hoping the soundtrack to excel was in the casino scenes. Maybe I was expecting too much, but I hoped that the rears would be used occasionally to recreate the busy LA casinos. Unfortunately the rears are used very sparingly, with only a mumour heard when something more substantial would have enhanced the atmosphere. The high standards set by the transfer have unfortunately not been matched by the audio, but don’t let that distract you from buying this disc. There are very few sequences in this movie which warrant a lively soundtrack, so what we are provided with is an efficient and restrained soundtrack. Also found on the disc are three Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks in English, French and Spanish. Subtitles are also provided in seven different languages.

Ocean's Eleven
Extras
This Ocean’s Eleven DVD hosts enough extras to keep even the most ardent of fans happy. First up are two audio commentaries. The first one is called the ‘film makers’ commentary and features director Steven Soderbergh and screenwriter Ted Griffen. They start off by talking about the distorted Warner logo which was changed for the movie. Apparently Warner didn’t even mention the change, and this surprised the pair. They then launch into an interesting discussion about some lines which were cut from the opening scene featuring George Clooney. They were glad that the lines were cut, but if you are interested to find out what they were they are still shown in the trailer. Overall this is a very detailed commentary with the commentators mentioning what they were doing the day that certain scenes were filmed. They also talk about the various actors throughout the commentary, and explain why they were chosen for their particular roles. It is apparent from the commentary that the director liked to have input from all the actors and asked for opinions whenever possible. During the commentary the pair make several references to the rat pack, and how they wanted to try not to just recreate the original movie, as the audiences would find it boring.

The second commentary is called the ‘cast’ commentary and features Matt Damon, Andy Garcia and Brad Pitt. This commentary is far more disjointed than the film makers commentary, but nethertheless it is still enjoyable. It is funny to listen to Brad Pitt referring to George Clooney as “Clooney” and Pitt also makes jokes about him at several points in the commentary. However all three commentators are unanimous in their praise for George Clooney. Brad Pitt is a little disappointing in this commentary as he doesn’t really say much and tends to joke around too much.  The group also talk about their first meeting with the director, and how they didn’t need much persuasion to take part in the project. This commentary is a lot better than I expected, with Matt Damon in particular giving most of the detailed info. The commentators all seem to get on well, and reiterate the good times they had while filming. They also seemed to enjoy making the commentary, and this comes across. Overall this is a friendly and amusing commentary.  

The next ‘substantial’ extra contained on this disc is the ‘behind the scenes’ documentary. This is a very stylish piece, with small windows appearing all over the screen. The stars introduce themselves and we are also told a little about the storyline. Highlights in this documentary include Julia Roberts talking about her enthusiasm for Steven Soderbergh movies, and the fact that she would have starred in the movie for only $20. Brad Pitt also talks about the great fun he had reading the script for the first time. The documentary shows some behind the scenes footage, which demonstrates how much fun the filming actually was. The documentary concludes with a chat with Steven Soderbergh, where the director says that the movie had the perfect storyline to have lots of stars involved in. The overall running time for this documentary is just over fifteen minutes.

Ocean's Eleven
If you are interested by costumes in movies, then you are bound to enjoy ‘The look of the Con’ which is a ten minute featurette. Jeffrey Kurland (Costume Designer) and Steven Soderbergh both talk about how the characters were dressed in the movie. Kurland is pretty animated throughout, and considered the costumes to be a major part of the film. The look of the original movie was avoided, in order to give it a revamped appearance. Kurland also believed that the costumes told their own story, so he took a considerable amount of time choosing the correct ones. This leads into a general chat about the characters and their choice of clothing. Apparently Brad Pitt was very interested in the clothes and his fitting took hours. This featurette lasts for just under ten minutes.

Next up is the trailer and teasers section. The trailer lasts for about two minutes and follows the style of the documentary. Some of the main lines from the movie are shown with jazzy music playing in the background. There are also two teaser trailers which vary considerably in quality and length. Teaser Trailer two was my favourite, and could be considered a useful alternative to the actual trailer. Finally the disc includes a cast and crew section. This simply lists the cast and crew, with details about other movies they have been involved in.

Overall
Ocean’s Eleven is a stylish heist movie which is an ideal Saturday night popcorn flick. Couple that with a cast which is second to none, and it is easy to see why the movie did so well at the box office. Region two fans have been waiting for this movie for too long, as other regions have been released a while back. Thankfully it was worth the wait, and we are provided with a disc which is comparable to the region one release. A superb transfer and two commentaries are the highlight of what can be considered a steal at the price. Bad joke I know! Ocean’s Eleven comes highly recommended.  


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