Back Comments (6) Share:
I reviewed the standard DVD release of Ocean's Thirteen at the end of last year and now that I've watched it again in shiny high definition, I can't say my opinion on the movie itself has changed. For that reason, I've been lazy and copied my original review in below. If you've already digested my expert opinion, feel free to scroll down to the technical bits...

Ocean's Thirteen

Feature


When Reuben gets cut out of the deal to build a new casino by Willy Bank and falls ill, Danny Ocean returns to Las Vegas to plan a new heist as revenge for what Bank did to his old friend. The Bank is a state-of-the-art casino designed for high rollers so Danny, Rusty, Linus and the gang have to work out how to bring down the casino and make Bank’s investment worthless. Some characters from their past show up along the way, but will they stop Ocean’s thirteen from breaking The Bank?

I’ll be honest up front and say that I haven’t seen Ocean’s Twelve and while I always try not to judge a movie before watching it, knowledge of the Julia Roberts plot twist just makes me want to avoid it. It’s well-known that the first sequel to Ocean’s Eleven was made partly just so George Clooney and his mates could hang out and look cool in Europe. After the relative lack of performance of Twelve, the action has quite rightly moved back to the familiar settings of a Las Vegas casino for Thirteen.

Ocean's Thirteen
The structure of Ocean’s Thirteen will be instantly familiar to fans of the first in the series, or any other caper movie for that matter. Act one involves a montage of people sitting around talking and clips of action to get as much exposition out of the way early on. Act two is when the problems arise and our heroes have to adapt to these complications and act three is the heist. There are some jokes dotted around but in a nutshell, that’s pretty much it for the structure. If you wanted character development, you’ve come to the wrong place I’m afraid. This isn’t a story about people coming to terms with their feelings and the lack of involvement by any female ‘good guys’ is explained only by the throwaway line ‘it’s not their fight’.

The only relationship that approaches something deeper than looking cool while exchanging witty banter is with the introduction of Linus’ father and the moment of them together is a welcome addition, albeit a brief one. The main problem I found with Ocean’s Thirteen is the fact that because there’s hardly any character development and the plot is so intricately constructed, no one in Ocean’s team ever really looks like they’re having any difficulty with the job, no matter what problems may arise. Everyone always seems to have a plan B or clever editing has led us to believe something else was going to happen, but from beginning to end the good guys are in complete control. As a result, there are hardly any real thrills to be had because unlike Ocean’s Eleven, you never get the feeling that anyone’s life is in danger.

Ocean's Thirteen
There is still some fun to be had here though. As ever, Danny and Rusty continue to operate as one mind in two bodies and their lines are written as if it is one person talking to himself. There is more of an indication of a code of conduct among thieves and Vegas wise guys in this movie, with the oft-used line ‘you shook Sinatra’s hand’. The Oprah scene and the Mexico storyline are odd additions but while they don’t seem to fit in with what you expect from an Ocean’s movie, they are certainly enjoyable. The movie looks great too, with Soderbergh blending montage, dissolves, split-screen and tracking shots to ensure that even though it may not be the most exciting movie of 2007, it’s certainly a feast for the eyeballs.

Given the Las Vegas setting and very similar storyline, Ocean’s Thirteen could almost be described as a re-imagining of Soderbergh’s first movie in the series with the same cast. It’s a case of if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it filmmaking that returns to familiar territory after the series was almost broken for some fans with Ocean’s Twelve. This means that while the whole thing is incredibly familiar and danger-free, it’s a fairly enjoyable ride while it lasts but you’ll be reaching for Ocean’s Eleven before watching this for a second time.

Ocean's Thirteen

Video


Just as on the standard DVD, Ocean’s Thirteen is presented in 2.40:1, only this time we get it in full 1080p glory. The good news is that it's just as colourful and the picture is predictably sharper. The bad news is that the difference between the standard DVD and this HD DVD release isn't that obvious and while the picture is certainly an improvement, there is still some grain to be found in darker scenes. I wouldn't say the difference is significant enough between this release and an upscaled DVD to warrant splashing out the extra cash for the picture quality alone.

Audio


Music plays a large part in Ocean’s Thirteen, whether it’s the cool, laid-back theme that plays over the colourful producer credits at the beginning that has the air of Lalo Schifrin’s score for Bullitt, or the punchy background music that keeps the action moving along. The surround track showcases David Holmes’ music very well, with the sounds of the casino sometimes taking a backseat. For this reason, it would have been great to have an isolated music track. This means that there’s not always a huge amount going on in the surround speakers but I can’t really fault the quality of what’s there on the soundtrack.

Ocean's Thirteen
On this disc the only audio option we get is Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 (in English, French or Spanish). To be honest, I couldn't detect any improvement over the audio track on the standard DVD, whether it's the music or the effects. If this had been a movie with complex sound editing and big explosions like Transformers, the difference would have been more obvious. Therefore, where I gave the standard DVD seven out of ten for the audio quality, this disc also gets seven for doing exactly the same thing in high definition, although the addition of a lossless track would have been welcome.

Extras


‘Vegas: An Opulent Illusion’ is probably the only thing that qualifies as a highlight in this lean set of extras as it documents the history of Las Vegas and follows the city’s constant reinvention, including interviews with casino owners. ‘Jerry Weintraub Walk and Talk’ is two and a half minutes of the producer walking around the casino set and is pretty much a total waste of time. Interestingly, the deleted scenes are called ‘Additional Scenes’ and are a small collection of extended and deleted scenes that would have been better if they’d come with a director’s commentary.

Ocean's Thirteen
This disc comes with a couple of HD-exclusive features. First of all we've got a commentary track by Steven Soderbergh with the screenwriters Brian Koppelman and David Levien. Soderergh's words of wisdom are the most interesting, highlighting his approach to editing and the decisions that were made to bring all the characters back together in Las Vegas. On the other hand, the screenwriters are a bit of a pain to listen to and from the things they say, they don't seem to appreciate some of the finer points of movie-making. For example, one of them admits to not knowing what the phrase 'cold opening' means, which I thought was very strange for a screenwriter.

The second exclusive extra is a featurette called 'Masters of the Heist'. I wasn't expecting much from this forty-five minute documentary, but I found myself enjoying it almost as much as the movie itself. With interviews and reconstructions, it tells the true stories of four famous heists throughout history, including the team of maths students from MIT that inspired the story behind the movie 21. This is definitely worth watching but it's a strange choice to include on the disc to entice potential HD customers.

Ocean's Thirteen

Overall


Ocean’s Thirteen is good fun while it lasts, but feels like more of the same rather than the latest chapter in a progressive series. The video and audio quality is perfectly fine and while the exclusive extras might be worth a watch, this package isn't exactly a reference title for HD DVD. That said, you can probably pick this disc up on the cheap now that the format is on its way out, so if you're a fan of the movie and you have a choice between this and the identical Blu-ray disc, you might want to give it a go.

* Note: The above images are taken from the HD DVD release and resized for the page.


Links: