18 July 2010

Ocean's Eleven

My intention was to finish a little writing busywork and then fall asleep to this film, but Soderbergh wouldn't let me. There's not a frame out of place, not a single shot that doesn't grip you and keep you asking for more. It's the smartest dumb movie ever made, engaging and fun, clever and tricky, twisty and meta-twisty, exciting and high-stakes enough to never let you go. And it's got a non-stop barrage of brilliant, quippy dialogue, from a bunch of charming big-name actors just having a hell of a good time. What's not to love?

It's interesting how some of Soderbergh's later films have seemed a little more like hollow exercises than heartfelt artistic expressions (Che and The Girlfriend Experience are both competent and on a certain level enjoyable, but they just feel workmanlike, at best), but when put in the captain's seat of massive moneymaker commercial fare, he manages to turn the whole endeavor upside-down without losing track of what makes it commercial. Ocean's 11 and The Informant! and Out of Sight are all crime films that any big-name director could have made money with, with scripts too good to go too wrong, but Soderbergh turns each of them into clever, playful, intelligent and character-driven meta-narratives, winking at its audience without getting highbrow or pretentious. My point is, some of the man's best work is his most commercial. The man won't let up, publicly saying he wants to make a film in every genre, and sometimes it feels like he's making the film to prove he can. But when he's on, he's on, and that justifies every attempt, even the ones that turn out a little too cold or analytical.

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