Two years ago, I attended the North American Premiere of Steven Soderbergh’s Bubble, and wrote a review in which I wrote : “Let’s hope Mr. Soderbergh continues on with such creative ‘indie’ fare and that he won’t be wasting his talent on an Ocean’s Thirteen anytime soon.” I had not intended that statement to be prophetic, but lo and behold, the great Mr Soderbergh has wasted his talent on the new Ocean’s Thirteen, a mild spot of light fun, which pales in comparison to its original Ocean’s Eleven.
Ocean’s Thirteen is, as expected, an excuse for George Clooney and Brad Pitt to ooze charisma, for Peter Andrews to photograph them doing it, and for Steven Soderbergh to make a pretty penny for having a bit of fun. And heck, the movie is fun, but it’s not all that fun: you don’t really leave the movie feeling any more satisfied at the end than you were at the beginning, though you’re maybe a little bit more giddy. Ocean’s Thirteen is better than Ocean’s Twelve, but pales by comparison to Ocean’s Eleven.
When Thirteen begins, the writers and the actors operate under the assumption that we already know everything about these characters, not bothering to really introduce them or give us any context whatsoever. When Clooney and Pitt first appear, they discuss their respective girlfriends that have appeared in the series – Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta-Jones – telling us that ‘it’s[the plot of this film] not their fight’, and thus explaining away their absence from the movie. Of course, neither the writers nor the audience are particularly convinced by this explanation; it’s clear Roberts and Jones still have a career that they’ve chosen to spare by not participating in this mediocre nostalgic bit of fluff.
There is, of course, yet another heist to perform, though this one makes even less sense than the previous ones. It’s supposed to be a revenge trip, but no one bothers to develop the characters enough so that we’d have any reason to see why they would seek revenge or why we should care. The film is essentially a series of pointless shenanigans, some amusing, some downright silly and stupid. It’s fun but there’s no suspense; nothing really seems to be riding on their ability to successfully complete the heist; I really care less as to what happens.
The plot line of the heist in Ocean’s Eleven was completely absurd, but what it lacked in logic it made up for with sleek style and real emotion. We cared about the heist because Danny’s relationship with his former wife (Julia Roberts) was at stake. We cared about the smooth-talking, charismatic con-man,
Sure, Ocean’s Thirteen has some good-looking and charismatic actors, some gorgeous photography but I never really cared. Ocean’s Eleven was never about plot; it was all about character and style and that’s why it worked. In Ocean’s Thirteen I felt like I was in a never-ending series of expository scenes, which never lead into something bigger or grander, and never gave me something to grab onto and care about. So, if you’ve already seen Ocean’s Eleven and Ocean’s Twelve, and you just can’t wait to see another movie with George Clooney or photography by Peter Andrews, go ahead. See it. It’s mildly amusing. Otherwise, rent Ocean’s Eleven, a classic in its own right, and far better than this film parasite.