With George Clooney's assertion that Ocean's Thirteen is the final film in the series, Appellate Judge Kent Dixon has finally scrapped his draft screenplay for a sequel entitled Ocean's Twenty-One: Legal in All States.
Our reviews of Ocean's Thirteen (published November 13th, 2007), Ocean's Thirteen (Blu-Ray) (published November 23rd, 2007), Ocean's Trilogy (Blu-Ray) (published February 2nd, 2008), and Ocean's Trilogy (HD DVD) (published February 9th, 2008) are also available.
Willie Bank: This town might have changed, but not me. I know people highly
invested in my survival, and they are people who really know how to hurt in ways
you can't even imagine.
It's bolder. Riskier. The most dazzling heist yet.
I love heist and caper films. I loved the remake of The Italian Job and I love Stephen Soderbergh's Ocean's series so far. But I'd also be the first to admit that too many trips to the well can leave a concept feeling old and tired, with a distinctly "been there, done that" aftertaste. Rumored to be the final film in the series, can Ocean's Thirteen pull off this heist without running dry?
Facts of the Case
Danny Ocean (George Clooney, ER) and his gang gather around the hospital bed of their good friend Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould, M*A*S*H) as he is recovering from a heart attack. The audience learns in a flashback sequence that Willy Bank (Al Pacino, Serpico), Las Vegas' most infamous businessman, caused Tishkoff's heart attack when he shafted him on a business agreement. Ocean and his crew swear revenge against Bank, planning to ruin his new hotel "The Bank," during the grand opening celebrations. Plans ensue…things go wrong…it's all good!
Caper films focus on interesting characters, their ultimate goal and the convoluted plot twists and turns that get them there. As it stands, the Ocean's series is the only current example of film franchise based on the caper film concept. For a caper film to work well, it must rely on the goal and the journey towards that goal, but it must also include a solid ensemble cast that can carry the plot and keep the moviegoer interested.
For me, the first word that pops into my mind when I think of the Ocean's series is "chemistry." As much as I enjoy watching the capers unfold, seeing the bad guys get what they deserve, and seeing what the filmmakers have in store, I enjoy watching what the core cast create together on screen. It's clear from watching any of the films in this series that these actors respect each other, work exceedingly well together, and have fun while pulling it all together.
The third film in a series doesn't always leave off on a high note like Return of the Jedi or Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Dare I mention Superman III, Beverly Hills Cop III, or even The Matrix Revolutions? So how does Ocean's Thirteen fare against these odds? Now officially identified by George Clooney as the last film in the series, Ocean's Thirteen is a whole lot of fun. The majority of these actors have a history together, working as a very effective ensemble on the previous Ocean's films and the chemistry has never been better than it is in Ocean's Thirteen. The dialogue is fast and smart, and has an improvised feeling that helps keep the viewer's attention. By peppering the script with references to real-world scams, the dialogue gets a nice credibility, even if the average viewer doesn't pick up on them.
Neither Julia Roberts nor Catherine Zeta-Jones returned to reprise their roles from the previous films, but Al Pacino and Ellen Barkin joined the cast on this outing, as the nefarious Willy Bank and his assistant Abigail. It was a nice surprise to see Andy Garcia appear in the film and viewers will enjoy how his character fits into the grand scheme. The core chemistry within Danny Ocean's team remains, and is as strong as ever, and it's almost a crime to see how much fun these guys are having together, knowing how much they're likely being paid; but I digress.
George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh must also have found they had a good thing going, maybe that's why they formed Section Eight Productions, a company they co-owned until 2006. Section Eight produced the successful films Far From Heaven, Insomnia, Syriana, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Good Night, and Good Luck and the Ocean's series. The company has ultimately folded with Soderbergh's assertion that "it's stopped being fun. We just sat down one day and said 'no more.'" Fortunately, they created a nice, albeit small body of work before disbanding, not the least of which is Ocean's Thirteen.
Steven Soderburgh has a unique visual style; you can see it in Erin Brockovich and you can certainly see it throughout the Ocean's series. The picture is warm and intimate, and looks more like an independent film than one from a major studio. At times, the colors are intentionally oversaturated, with blues, oranges, and off-yellow colors dominating some scenes to emphasize mood. Employing handheld and low-angle camera techniques also added to the feeling of reality and immediacy throughout the film. With many scenes taking place in shadow and low light, the HD presentation faithfully reproduces solid blacks and distinct detail, even in low light, and when color is present, it is bright and impressive. Although the video presentation on this release faithfully reproduces the stylized look Soderbergh was after in the film, it's perhaps not the best video presentation to really highlight the impressive detail and realistic color HD can deliver. The Dolby Digital Plus audio does a solid job of delivering dialogue, music and effects, but there is minimal transfer to the rear channels, other than strictly ambient sound.
In my review of the HD/SD combo release of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, I mentioned how handy it is for a reviewer to have both versions of the film in a single release, for comparison purposes. One thing that threw me in this SD/HD combo of Ocean's Thirteen was that some of the special features are duplicated on both sides of the disc, with both versions of the film. Additional scenes from the film are included in HD on the HD side and SD on the SD side; a bit of a waste of space, don't you think? Personally, if I'm making a conscious decision to purchase a film on HD, I'd prefer that all the extra features are presented in HD, or at least as many as possible. So suffice it to say that you have SD and HD options for some of the features, but will likely want to defer to the HD versions where possible. "Vegas: An Opulent Illusion…Las Vegas' Influential Design Sense," takes a close look at the history, unique look and style of the city of Las Vegas, from "the Strip" itself to the design of casinos and how their layout and amenities are tailored to lure passersby; it's an interesting insider's look at Sin City. In "Jerry Weintraub Walk and Talk: The Producer Takes Us on a Casino Tour," you guessed it, viewers follow the film's producer Jerry Weintraub on a tour of the Ocean's Thirteen set. With all the design elements and attention to detail, it's hard to believe "The Bank" casino doesn't really exist. I was shocked to discover it was all just an elaborate set and not just an existing casino that had been redressed for the film. Additional scenes (in hi-def on the HD side of the disc and standard definition on the SD side) include some extra material with Virgil Malloy (Casey Affleck) in the dice factory, a short clip of Turk Malloy (Scott Caan) in the casino kitchen, a scene with Danny Ocean (Clooney) and Rusty Ryan (Pitt) as they first case "The Bank," a scene between Livingston Dell (Eddie Jemison) and Roman Nagel (Eddie Izzard) as they work to rig the card shufflers, and a scene with Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) as he discusses Ocean's plan with a mystery man hidden in the shadows of a car.
HD-exclusive content on this release includes an engaging commentary by director Steven Soderbergh and screenwriters Brian Koppelman and David Levien. Covering nearly every topic imaginable, from events on screen to funny stories and interesting tidbits, the trio delivers a solid commentary experience which I would easily add to the top five, or at least the top 10 commentary tracks I have ever heard; yes, that's high praise, but I personally found it was that good. "Master of the Heist: Recalling Real-Life Sophisticated Heists," delivers just what the title implies, as viewers learn the stories behind four real-life events that were seemingly normal on the surface, but were actually elaborate scams; this is a fun little 43-minute documentary, filled with facts, so I don't want to give anything more away.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
My main criticism of Ocean's Thirteen is that it wasn't the second film in the series, raising the bar for an even better final film. And a note for Warner Bros. on future HD DVD combo releases: don't bother duplicating the content on both sides of the disc.
Fortunately, my fears that Ocean's Thirteen would feel like a tired and overused concept were definitely proven wrong. Not only is it a strong film on its own, but it also takes the Ocean's series out on a high note…much higher than if the series had ended with Ocean's Twelve. It turns out that Las Vegas is ultimately the setting where Danny Ocean and his crew do what they do best, and it's impossible to deny that their schemes are just that much prettier on HD.
Ocean's Thirteen definitely trumps its predecessor in the trilogy and, when the chips are down, closes out the Ocean's series with a jackpot. Not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Director and Screenwriter Commentary
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