Thursday, December 14

Movie Review: Ocean's Thirteen (2007)

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Centering the saga on male camaraderie, team loyalty, and cool professionalism, “Ocean’s Thirteen” has clear personal motivations: brotherhood in the middle of revenge. The clan is reunited again to avenge their mentor from the moral crime of his swindler x-partner.

The usual suspects known for delivering their witty lines in effective, nonchalant ways, and doing ‘mission impossible-ish’ tasks are back with sophisticated humor, peppered ironies, comedic suspense, and contagious energy that has marked the franchise since “Ocean’s Eleven.”

This star-driven genre film maintains the grace and manners the franchise is known for. The gentleman heistmeister Danny Ocean (George Clooney), along with his best dressed tactician and sidekick Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) and the rest of his wild bunch return to Las Vegas – recapturing much of the spirit of ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ – to pull off another con to get even with the egomaniacal Vegas kingpin Willie Bank (Al Pacino) who doublecrosses one of the original eleven, Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould). And without being exploitative of the original film’s reputation, its familiarity and interconnections become a confection of silly gags and great visuals that adhere to a clear and simple premise spiced up with a complicatedly breezy plotting.

The film looks fresh and sharp amidst the touches of a formulaic Hollywood style – and it makes up a true fun escapist heist movie. The smart one-liners and the cool references to the previous chapters, and even to the stars’ off screen persona, put the right chips on for a good deal.

Ocean’s helmer Steven Soderbergh proves his bravura wits as he engages the audience with grand visual and aural pleasure. The technical and scientific aspects of the heist are so complex that they may be hard to follow, but Soderbergh knows his way around. He has a firm grasp of technical devices to elevate the story with his splendidly staged scenes, fast tempo, and stunning framing. They all work together to keep up with the textual properties missing in the raw material. Indeed, his masterful direction and photography (under the Peter Andrews), along with the equally-delivering staff, crew, and cast, mark both the coolness and hotness of the film.

Credit is due to the clever script from writers Brian Koppelman and David Levien (also the ones behind the poker drama ‘Rounders’). The film consists of hundreds of brief scenes where the new heist is for the sake of friendship, not money. The cool and witty dialogues build a sleek narrative momentum all throughout the film.

Each of the well-crafted characters deliver lines with a relaxed wit – which makes the screenplay work to its best purpose. Danny and Rusty have the biggest parts in the script, while the rest of the gang in smaller but still well-written parts that often operate individually.

The physicality of “Ocean’s Thirteen” relies on elaborate play on light and color. The whole film boosts of a rich and diverse color palette. The stylistic flourishes and ostentatious interior design of Bank’s spanking new high-rise casino named appropriately as The Bank boasts of bright and hot colors, mainly sumptuous golds and reds. Shot on a lavish set built on Warner Brothers’ biggest soundstage, the lurid colors, sterling sets, fabulous costumes, and illustrious props really keep up with the demands of an eye-catching Vegas. Add up The Bank’s impeccable CGI work, the absurd but nonetheless amazing twisting structure dominating the Vegas skyline yields to the film’s grand production demands.

The bright and warm colors of the casino spots render effectively opposite the blues and grays of the exterior scenes. The Ocean’s troupe keeps up with the ‘cool men in cool clothes’ look wherever they are. And production designer Philip Messina and costume designer Louise Frogley should be given due credit to their enormous contribution to the film’s physical needs. So goes with cinematographer Andrews, editor Stephen Mirrione, and composer David Holmes – all complementing each other’s work for the good of the film.


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