The original Ocean’s 11 (1960) wasn’t a very good movie; it was less a skillfully-plotted heist picture than an excuse for Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack pals to hang out together and swap inside jokes. It did, however, prove that the heist film didn’t need to be much more than an exercise in style – a lesson not lost on the glamorous capers that followed throughout the ’60s, including Topkapi, How To Steal a Million, The Thomas Crown Affair, and The Italian Job.
Four decades later, Steven Soderbergh’s remake was also an exercise in style, but it was also carefully plotted and executed. And like Sinatra’s version, Soderbergh’s tale of an elaborate Las Vegas heist had star power to burn – George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Don Cheadle, Bernie Mac, and on and on. Soderbergh doesn’t deny us any of the pleasures of the genre; he shows us the planning, the execution, and the aftermath, while still holding enough cards up his sleeve to surprise us and leave us feeling delightfully conned at the end. The irony is that the film’s two sequels did descend into precisely the kind of self-congratulatory in-jokiness that marred Sinatra’s movie.
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