Thursday, September 6, 2012

Ocean's Eleven

Heist films, in my mind, belong to a certain kind of genre.  It’s a kind of film that you would see someone like Sean Connery or Steve McQueen outwitting everyone around him.  It is a movie where the main character is always in a suit, with a supermodel on his arm, and driving an exotic car. These movies always seek to appeal to the certain kind of emotion, one that carries an ambiance of class and affluence.  Since the sixties some have attempted to create their own version of this classic style of film.  However, I feel as though none of those films have done nearly as good a job of doing this than Ocean’s Eleven

The original Ocean’s Eleven had an all-star cast, but only some of them were really actors.  It featured the Rat Pack., a group of talented entertainers, but two of their leaders were musicians Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr.  Sure, the new film’s cast isn’t the Rat Pack but its got its own flair and they are all very talented and establish that ambiance that make these films what they are.  While the acting is great in the film, the first thing that comes to my mind when thinking about Ocean’s Eleven is the music.  Its perfect – its this kind of funky, jazzy sound that doesn’t overpower the dialogue and harkens back to the era when McQueen, Connery and the Rat Pack made their iconic films.   No scene epitomizes these things better than the scene where Benedict learns that his money has been stolen.  He walks into the casino security room on the phone with someone – in the background a jazz band plays with the drums and bass keeping rhythm while the horn adds some character – the screens on the computers change revealing the vault being emptied by Ocean’s men. The jazz beat almost seems to match the cadence of the scene.  Its not slow, but its not too quick either, and its smooth.  Its kind of like Ocean’s heist; They don’t want to rush it and get caught and they want to look smooth and collected while they rob Benedict of one hundred and sixty million dollars.  The mood is captured in a way that is similar to how Hitchcock “accompanied an apparently casual sequence with “anxious” music – a warning to the audience to be prepared” (216).  However, instead of the audience feeling anxious in Ocean’s Eleven they feel an ominous sensation telling them that there is some trickery at work, like a smooth monologue misdirecting someone and keeping the heist team from being found out.  Even as Brad Pitt turns around, as he speaks with Benedict on the phone, to Tess, Benedict’s wife, Pitt finishes his conversation on the phone with poise and a cool head and then talks to Tess as if nothing is wrong.  Pitt keeps his cool head in this scene just as the rest of the heist team does throughout the film.  They are cool, collected and consistent without too many surprises, just like that jazz beat. 

As if it hasn’t been said enough, I love the way this music matches the setting of the film and its characters.  It creates a classic film atmosphere that few still attempt and even fewer achieve.  For that I give this soundtrack four out of five buckets of popcorn.

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