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June 11, 2007

Ocean's Thirteen

oceans thirteen.gif

Steven Soderbergh - 2007
Warner Brothers 35mm film

I suppose it is possible to enjoy Ocean's Thirteen without having seen the previous films. With references to characters from the previous versions, as well as appearances by a couple of the cast members that came onboard for Ocean's Twelve, seeing the earlier films makes the third film more meaningful. Soderbergh goes full circle with Ocean's Thirteen. The film not only brings his trilogy to completion, but also makes reference in a couple of ways to the original Rat Pack vehicle.

The story is initiated following a double-cross of Elliot Gould's Rueben Tishkoff by casino owner Willy Bank (Al Pacino). Tishkoff is certain of Bank's integrity based on their both having shook the hand of Frank Sinatra. Instead of a heist of Bank's casino hotel on the day of its grand opening, Danny Ocean and company create several ways to break the Bank as it were. One thing Clooney, Soderbergh and the gang could not duplicate is the gleefully indifferent attitute of Sinatra, Martin and most of the participants from the 1960 film. If Soderbergh's Ocean's Eleven was a bit too professional, Ocean's Twelve was a bit too loose. Ocean's Thirteen finds the right balance between detailing the mechanics and the filming the offhanded moments between the actors.

The best moments have nothing to do with the operation. One such scene is of Clooney and Pitt having a conversation made up of the kind of sentence fragments exchanged between people who've known each other for years. During this scene they stop in front of one of the newer theme hotels and remark how the original landmark hotels have disappeared. Especially for those people in any way familiar with that older Las Vegas, with references to the Sands and Dunes hotels, the dialogue also recalls the Las Vegas of Frank Sinatra and the original Ocean's Eleven, a film that was as much an advertisement for Las Vegas and the kind of entertainment popular for the pre-Rock Generation.

A further self-referential moment comes when Sinatra's song "This Town" is played during a fireworks display. The song and Sinatra again recall the original film, as well as making a comment about Las Vegas. The fireworks could well be a visual coda for Soderbergh and Clooney's artistic collaboration. One of the nicest moments from their first film, Out of Sight, featured fireworks outside the window as Clooney was charming Jennifer Lopez over dinner.

Other filmic references pop up, such as the hotel muzak including the themes from Dr. Zhivago and A Man and a Woman. Casting Pacino with Ellen Barkin seems like a casual tribute to Sea of Love, the film they starred in almost twenty years ago. While not together onscreen, having Garcia as a business rival to Pacino provides a sideways glance at The Godfather III. Just like the original film which was peppered with little "in jokes", the new film has similar references such as when Clooney advises Pitt to have a couple of kids.

It is the casual moments that reveal the true heart of Ocean's Thirteen. The film is ultimately a pop culture artifact about pop culture.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at June 11, 2007 10:30 AM