Ocean's Thirteen

For the actors on set, the Ocean’s movies are a party. Famous people show up, hang out, and seem to have a lot of fun with each other . There’s very little acting involved, but that’s also part of the series’ genius. As the franchise wears on director Steve Soderbergh has begun to merge the public persona of his very famous actors with that of the movie’s characters. By now, in the midst of the third film, there’s very little effort at all to develop these people into anything other than themselves. You’re watching George Clooney and Brad Pitt up there, not Danny Ocean and his good buddy Rusty. It’s not that Pitt and Clooney can’t act, it’s just that for these movies, they don’t need to. For Ocean’s Thirteen, that blending of public persona and character is more complete than ever and as a result the Ocean’s franchise works better than before.

It begins without bothering to attempt an introduction. George, Brad, Matt, Bernie and the rest show up and jump right into a heist. Elderly gang member and mascot Reuben Tishkoff (Elliot Gould) has been screwed over by a vicious Vegas entrepreneur named Willie Bank (Al Pacino), sending Reuben to the sick bed and Ocean’s boys to his defense. Clooney and his gang of lovable thieves spring into action to ruin Bank, with their most complicated con yet.

Ocean’s women have been left at home for this adventure, there’s an offhand reference to Tess being unable to come in the film’s opening, and the movie is better for it. Ocean’s Thirteen is about the unbreakable bond between a group of male friends, and the lengths they’re willing to go to honor it. They’re also back in Las Vegas, the perfect place for dudes to hang out and look really, really cool. By now this group has such an easy chemistry together that all of it, seems incredibly natural. They fit together, and by cutting away a lot of the fat that plagued the previous movies Soderbergh has made more room for the easy-going chemistry of his cast to take over. Because everyone seems so natural, for the audience it becomes almost an exercise in voyeurism, as if we’re peeking in at the day to day lives of Clooney and Pitt… if they had secret second jobs as roguish master thieves.

As usual, Ocean’s is all about looking cool. Clooney looks cool, Pitt looks cool, Damon looks cool. They talk cool, they move cool, and that’s good enough. Combine that with one of the better heist plots the series has had and you have a movie that’s a lot of fun. The gang shows up, gets right into the heist, and when the heist is done so is the movie. It’s short, it’s sharp, and because Soderbergh keeps things so simple, stripped-down, and straight to the point, Ocean’s Thirteen is the best Ocean’s movie so far.