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Arts and Entertainment

Movie Review: Ocean's Thirteen

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Ocean’s Thirteen continues the series’ cynical tradition of putting famous actors in sleek, stylish clothes and having them act cool. That’s really all there is to say. If you’ve seen either Ocean’s Eleven or Twelve, then you’ve basically already seen Ocean’s Thirteen, too. It’s almost tragic that a filmmaker as talented as Steven Soderbergh is spending years of his career turning out what is essentially disposable entertainment.

The plot is basically an elaborate revenge scheme hatched on behalf of the jilted Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould). Al Pacino and Ellen Barkin have been added to the mix, but neither contributes anything significant other than moving forward a few, perfunctory plot points. Pacino, in particular, seems to be sleepwalking through the movie. Consider this—his casino is being ripped off to the tune of several hundred million dollars and Pacino barely raises his voice during his climactic showdown with Danny Ocean. What?

Heist or caper movies really only need one thing to be good: ingenuity (see Inside Man). I'll forgive almost any flaw if a script creates a seemingly impossible objective and then solves it in an unexpected, clever way. Ocean's Thirteen only goes halfway. It does a fine job of creating a forbidding obstacle, but the solutions to vanquishing it are so spectacularly implausible that I just tuned out. Without spoiling too much, what are the real chances that a group of dissolute criminals would be able to manufacture a localized natural disaster? At no point is there any doubt that Ocean and his crew will succeed and at no point is there any palpable sense that anyone is in any real danger. How can you expect a movie to succeed if there is no tension in the narrative?

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The movie isn't a complete mess, of course. There's too much talent involved for that to happen. Matt Damon is, as always, excellent and thoroughly whetted my appetite for the next Bourne chapter (isPaul Greengrass the best director that no one really talks about?) Eddie Jemison is the only other actor who seems to actually be creating a distinct character instead of a hazy, cooler version of himself (Pitt, Clooney, et al). Soderbergh is working as his own DP again (as Peter Andrews) and his deft and constant handling of long, intricately-staged zooms is wonderful to watch. If only it were in the service of a better movie. Don't waste your time and money on this one. Go see Once instead!

Photo by idealterna via Flickr