OCEANíS ELEVEN ($27) is the best caper movie to come this way in a long time. If fact, this film revels in the simple joy of being perfect escapist fun. Everything about OCEANíS ELEVEN is cool, slick, stylish and totally enjoyable. Although OCEANíS ELEVEN is a remake of a famous "Rat Pack" movie from the sixties, this modern update discards pretty much everything but the basic premise of eleven individuals pulling of a virtually impossible robbery of a Las Vegas casino. Actually, by throwing away almost everything from the original, director Steven Soderbergh and screenwriter Ted Griffin have come up with a film infinitely superior to its predecessor.
OCEANíS ELEVEN features an all-star cast headed up by George Clooney as Danny Ocean, who has just been released from a New Jersey prison after doing a four-year sentence. While inside, Danny had the opportunity to plan the perfect heist- Rob the vault of three high caliber Las Vegas casinos owned by Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia)- with an estimated take of over one hundred fifty million dollars. Hooking up with his right-hand man Dusty Ryan (Brad Pitt), the two find the perfect person to bankroll their operation in the form of Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould), a former casino owner, who has an axe to grind with Terry Benedict. With their finances in place, the two assemble the rest of their team to carry off Dannyís perfectly devised heist. All of the pieces seem to fall into place, until the rest of the team learns that Danny has an ulterior motive for robbing Terry Benedict- namely his ex-wife Tess (Julia Roberts), who is now deeply involved with the ruthless Vegas casino owner. The rest of Oceanís Eleven includes Matt Damon, Carl Reiner (who steals scenes like crazy), Bernie Mac, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Eddie Jemison, Shaobo Qin and an uncredited Don Cheadle.
Warner Home Video has made OCEANíS ELEVEN available on DVD in a 2.35:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. Warner has also released a separate pan and scan version of the film, but who would want to watch only half of this wonderful movie? While the cinematography can be a little "artsy" and director Soderbergh complains in his commentary that certain shots did not come out to his liking, I think the wide screen edition of OCEANíS ELEVEN is a gorgeous looking DVD. The image is consistently sharp and wonderfully well defined throughout the course of the film. There are sequences where the contrast is overblown and others moments where the image appears grainy, but these are excellent stylistic choices for this particular motion picture. I donít think Las Vegas has ever looked better in a movie than the way Soderbergh has chosen to shoot it in OCEANíS ELEVEN. Colors run the gamut, from appearing subdued to appearing well saturated to even appearing wonderfully overripe- again; the effect is perfect. Blacks are solid and inky, plus the level of shadow detail is just fine throughout. Dual layer authoring keeps digital compression artifacts completely in check.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack isnít anything spectacular, but it does get the job done. Since most of OCEANíS ELEVEN is dialogue driven, there isnít much for the sound engineers to play around with. The forward soundstage predominates in the sound mix, although the surround channels do provide a bit of ambient fill throughout the course of the movie. Of course, the soundtrack does spring to life during the filmís climax- when there are some actual sound effects and an opportunity for the sound mix to become playful. The filmís music does fare rather well in the sound mix, sounding full bodied and managing to make good use of all five discrete channels. A French 5.1 channel and an English Dolby Surround track are also encoded onto the DVD, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.
Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVDís interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the DVDís supplements. OCEANíS ELEVEN includes two running audio commentaries; the first is with director Steven Soderbergh and screenwriter Ted Griffin, while the second features actors Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Andy Garcia. Both commentaries prove to be entertaining and worth listening to, although those wanting to hear about the technical side of the movie should stick with the director/screenwriter track, while those wanting a looser talk will prefer what the actors have to say.
The DVD also includes two featurettes. Running fifteen minutes is the HBO First Look Special The Making of Ocean's Eleven. Although on the fluffy side, the program includes interviews with the cast and crew, all of whom appear to be having a blast while making the movie. Clocking in at ten minutes is The Look of the Con, which features costume designer Jeffrey Kurland who discusses the great looking costumes that he created for various members of the cast. All of the clothes worn in the movie look really good, especially those designed for Andy Garcia- I wonder if he got to take that great wardrobe home after the movie wrapped? Two theatrical teasers and one full trailer are also included on the DVD, along with cast & crew filmographies. OCEANíS ELEVEN is also DVD-ROM enabled, offering the theatrical web site, other Warner web links, plus a great little interactive game. Are You In or Out? is a game that allows the player to become part of the heist team, as well as playing blackjack and answering trivia questions.
OCEANíS ELEVEN is a genuine delight of a caper movie that really delivers the goods. Warnerís DVD looks great and sounds quite nice. That, along with the extras, makes picking up your own copy of OCEANíS ELEVEN on DVD a no brainer.
reviews are Copyright © 2002 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied
or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.