Monday, June 11, 2007

Out of Order, Lost at Sea

By Mike Gillis

All the attention to "Ocean's Thirteen" last week reminded me I was one of the few people to miss the first picture in the trilogy, "Ocean's Eleven," the 2001 loose remake of a hip 1960 outing of the same name. This weekend I had a chance to catch up, but not before accidentally renting "Ocean's Twelve," watching half of it and realizing I had missed the boat.

It's a strange way to gauge a picture. Watching the second film first, I kept asking, of course, what the hell is going on? Will this make sense? That said, the film moves at a quick clip and boasts some solid performances by George Clooney, Elliott Gould, Andy Garcia, Matt Damon, and even Brad Pitt. It picks up where the first film leaves off: Casino owner Terry Benedict (Garcia), who lost a hundred-and-some-odd million in an intricately plotted heist masterminded by huckster Danny Ocean (Clooney) and 10 accomplices in "Ocean's Eleven", hunts down the thieves in "Ocean's Twelve".

Before realizing my own timeline was off, I wondered if director Steven Soderbergh chose to throw the "Ocean's Twelve" timeline into a blender, as he's done with other pictures, beginning with Benedict's retribution. In the film's opening act, Benedict tracks down all eleven thieves at various locations across the globe and gives them a deadline to pay back his stolen millions.

I had to stop the DVD about an hour into the picture to tend to other matters. Later on, looking at the movie's case, I realized I had mistakenly watched the second picture in the trilogy. Apart from feeling like an idiot, it was a curious exercise in how modern movies are assembled, particularly sequels, which aim to appeal to people who have not seen the previous installments. Although it appears critics were not at all pleased with "Ocean's Twelve," favoring the first -- and rightly so -- and the third, Soderbergh does weave an engaging tale that maintains interest, despite some missing back story, at least for an hour. After watching the first picture, I'm not sure Soderbergh misses any important character development, despite some marvelous setups of "Ocean's Eleven," and seems to manage some flourishes that stand alone in the second while contributing to the first. It's a lot of fun, if not a little too proud of itself.

The problem is this: Now that I've gone back and watched the first Ocean's, which I found to be one of the more clever and entertaining heist pictures I've seen, I'm less interested in watching the rest of "Ocean's Twelve." I'm not sure why. Perhaps I was pleased with how "Ocean's Eleven" wraps up, and getting this witty crew back together, plus one new thief per picture, cheapens the first somehow. I don't know.

Perhaps I should just skip it and move on to "Ocean's Thirteen." I'm sure Soderbergh will help me catch up.

Buy it here:

Ocean's Eleven (Widescreen Edition)