Ocean's Twelve (Steven Soderbergh, 2004)

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#1 Post by dvdane » Thu Dec 23, 2004 8:52 pm

It's just my opinion, but it really felt like they didn't even try/want to get the style of the first film.
That is probably because they never intended to redo the first. Soderbergh, when approaching the whole idea, realised, that he never made a sequel before, so he sat down and worked out some rules by which he wanted to make the film. First rule, dont repeat style, second rule, continue developing characters and character relationships.

Apart from the "homage to Zata-Jones and Entrapment" where Cassel is demonstrating how agile he is because he trained martial arts since before he was born, which is awful, stupid and silly, the films major problem is its first 40 minutes.
1 - The films spends 15 minutes reintroducing EACH character, as Garcia visits EACH character and says basically the same to each. Instead, begin with the Pitt sequence, then cut to the Clooney sequence, and cut from him speaking on the phone on the train to the meeting. Those 15 minutes is the worst Soderbergh ever has put on screen.

2 - Now comes the 25 second worst minutes of Soderbergh career, the Amsterdam sequence. Simply messy and with lack of structure.
Then walk on Cathrine Zeta-Jones, and now we suddenly get structure, the ping pong / cat and mouse game begins, especially with the introduction of "the nightfox" (stupid name btw), and the game will be who is ahead of who, who will outsmart who, or what we liked about Ocean's 11 to begin with.

What follows is the biggest joke Soderbergh yet has done. Not only does the characters get away with anything, so does he now. Allow me to explain why he is one of the greatest genius' in cinema today.
The Julia Roberts sequence. Here Julia Roberts, plays Tess Ocean and is asked to play... Julia Roberts. And who does she meet? Bruce Willis, who is Bruce Willis.
Already doing it in Full Frontal and especially in K-street, Soderbergh not only breaks down the barriers between fiction and reality, but between film and "documentary" (in lack of another word), only to rearrange his reality in a manner, so the audience watches reality, but believes its fiction.

And he does so thruought the film, after Amsterdam. My personal favorite use of this technique is when
Danny Ocean, played by Clooney, takes on the recent blend of vanity and concern about his age of Clooney, and asks his co-actors, if he really looks 50.
If Oceans 12 have had these touches of genius thought the film, if they had taken their time to remove the rest the rather clumpsy script "Honor amongst Thieves" by George Nolfi (who also wrote "Timeline", which says all about his skills) and just keep the elements that worked, it would without question have been one of the best films of 2004, and without contest the best American film of 2004, but sadly its not.

The first 40 minutes, especially those horrible first 15 minutes, cannot be excused, and one really has a hard time finding any defence for Cassel's lasershow sneaking, except that it is an injoke to Zeta.

EDIT: Two final comments:

1 - Damn they all play well
2 - Damn that Holmes guy has some funky tunes.

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#2 Post by Martha » Thu Dec 23, 2004 11:28 pm

So, I finally saw it. Oddly, I liked it way more than I did the first-- I think it's down to 1)expectations (they were high for the first, lower-than-low for this one), 2)the presence of Bruce Willis (who I completely adore in spite of myself), and 3)my severely weakened resistance to the powers of George Clooney. I still feel that the filmmaking was fairly lazy, but for some reason I was more vulnerable to the Charms Of Famous People this time, particularly all of those on display in the inspired Bruce Willis bits.

That said, I'm not sure I agree with Henrik that the frequent real-life-references (Bernie Mac likes manicures, so does his character. George Clooney is prematurely grey, so is his character. Etc.) are indications of Soderbergh's genius. Instead, I find them simple to be further signs of laziness-- why is making Clever In Jokes good filmmaking?

But I found myself much less annoyed every time George Clooney smiled. Especially when he was wearing white. God I'm so easy.

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#3 Post by jcelwin » Fri Dec 24, 2004 2:19 pm

Ok, just wanted to add my two cents.

Firstly, I didn't really like the movie. The first half started off nicely, I thought, but started to get kinda annoying. I didn't like the first one much either though, which is a shame 'cause Soderbergh is an excellent director.

One thing that I did find interesting (as many people have pointed out) is the references to the actors real lives (with Roberts being the most obvious). I don't think that this is at all a sign of genius, but I think that Soderbergh was playing around with the story, the audience, and 'movies' in general. I don't think that he was trying to say anything (important) but he was obviously teasing movies (their stars and the fiction), not in a mean spirited way, but just a joke and a nudge (I wouold not say they were 'in-jokes' however, but references to reality).

The movie made references to the stars real lives, and then portrays 'realistic' scenes; for example the 'true' robbery on the train. The train robbery (even if the premise for the egg being on the train is quite hard to believe) is shown simply and realistically, closer to reality. Even when the fake robbery is carried out (with julia playing a character playing herself) it is carried out in a simple realistic way. For much of the film these characters are shown in a more realistic light. The stars are shown as people not as stars that exist on some higher level (even julia looks quite unattractive compared to usual, which is commented on when she is compared to... herself).

On the other side we have the extravagant wealthy french thief. Here is a classic fiction character, a classic fiction thief. This is how stars are (usually) portrayed in films, in a very romantic light. His arrogance and personality seems very artificial as does the world he lives in. His robbery through the laser field is also very unrealistic. This is probably the height of the joke, the punch-line, as all he took was the fake egg.

This joke (theme?) can only be carried out this effectively because of the (perceived) status of the movie which is: 'big-budget', 'star-studded'.

Anyway, like I said before I didn't really like the movie that much (I'm not saying it was 'bad', but just 'ok') which is probably why I can't be bothered trying to look deeper into it (or structuring my thoughts better :roll: ). I'm just going on my thoughts from viewing it. Then again, I doubt that Soderbergh would have expected or really wanted anyone to bother/care delving past the superficial (as seems to be indicated by the joke, if that is what it is).

I'm probably missing a lot of things out, but this post is long enough already and I'm probably way off anyways (it wouldn't be the first time :wink: ).

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#4 Post by Fletch F. Fletch » Wed Apr 13, 2005 1:02 pm

dvdane wrote:1 - Damn they all play well
2 - Damn that Holmes guy has some funky tunes.
I finally caught up with this film on DVD and maybe it was because I had low expectations I actually quite enjoyed it. Not as much as Ocean's Eleven but I still thought it was a decent time-waster.

As I was watching the movie it struck me that if the first film was about Danny Ocean’s redemption by reconciling with Tess, then Ocean’s Twelve is about Rusty’s redemption by reconciling with his past love, Isabel. I liked how they kinda snuck that in there and it gave everything that happens a slightly poignant spin.

I also enjoyed Matt Damon's performance. Out of everyone, he seemed to be the only one who got any real decent screen time to do something and demonstrated excellent comic timing. For example, early on, he asks Rusty if he could have more to do this time out and this moment comes across as somewhat self-reflexive to me. It’s as if Damon were almost asking if he could have more screen time.

At any rate, I thought that Soderbergh kept the pace brisk and breezy. Like its predecessor, Ocean’s Twelve is beautifully shot with atmospheric lighting, an eclectically groovy soundtrack from British DJ David Holmes (that evokes a ‘60s Euro-lounge vibe that for some reason made me think of the Vampyros Lesbos soundtrack at times) and tight editing that mades it stylistically consistent with the first movie.

To me, Soderbergh is an excellent visual storyteller and there are a few scenes that he depicts without any dialogue, instead resorting to music married to visuals to convey exactly what’s going on. A lesser film would have resorted to unnecessary expositional dialogue. Soderbergh understands the kind of movie he’s making and doesn’t try to be too cute about things, instead focusing at the task at hand: making a confident, entertaining movie.

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#5 Post by domino harvey » Tue Jun 17, 2008 4:24 pm

Mark Wahlberg turned down Ocean's Twelve-- slamming Soderbergh's best film while doing press for what by all accounts is M. Night's worst film says a lot.

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#6 Post by souvenir » Tue Jun 17, 2008 4:54 pm

domino harvey wrote:Mark Wahlberg turned down Ocean's Twelve-- slamming Soderbergh's best film while doing press for what by all accounts is M. Night's worst film says a lot.
It was worth clicking on that link just to see this.

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#7 Post by wattsup32 » Tue Jun 17, 2008 4:58 pm

it's hard to respect a guy who can't admit his mistakes gracefully. he's been very good in some very good movies. he's also been very bad in some very good movies. and, he's been in some crap that was so terrible that judging his work would be impossible. he ought to keep his criticism of actors to himself (especially when those actors are clearly better at the craft than he is) and ought to know better than to burn bridges with a director as well respected as soderbergh.

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#8 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Tue Jun 17, 2008 5:07 pm

Did it mention which role he turned down? The most interesting "what-if" casting tidbit was that Clint Eastwood was in talks of being cast as Matt Damon's father.

I'm a fan of the movie, but I wouldn't say it's my favorite of the trilogy let alone his filmography. But I will say this much, it has the best music of the three Ocean's movies.
Last edited by flyonthewall2983 on Sat Mar 28, 2020 6:12 am, edited 1 time in total.

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#9 Post by Antoine Doinel » Tue Jun 17, 2008 5:25 pm

I gotta agree with Wahlberg on this one. I think only Ocean's Thirteen was any good. And frankly, Wahlberg does have a point about the mutual masturbation that went on between Brad/George and the rest of the cast during press for those films (and hell, any other time they work together). And Wahlberg does admit the films he choose to do instead were garbage and whose to say he won't be crapping on The Happening down the line? And he doesn't talk shit about Soderbergh, he just says he didn't like Ocean's Twelve. Hardly a crime.

Frankly, his candor is refreshing rather than the same old hoopla of "scheduling conflict" or "Golly, I would've really liked to work with Steven" excuses that come around any time an actor turns down a role.

Katherine Heigl, he's not.

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#10 Post by Jeff » Tue Jun 17, 2008 5:31 pm

flyonthewall2983 wrote:Did it mention which role he turned down?
He talks about the second film sucking, but he was offered a role in the first one. He was Soderbergh's first choice for the Matt Damon role. As far as I'm concerned, Damon was the best part of all three. I'm glad things worked out as they did.

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#11 Post by Fletch F. Fletch » Wed Jun 18, 2008 9:27 am

flyonthewall2983 wrote:But I will say this much, it has the best music of the three Ocean's movies.
I thought so too until I caught Ocean's Thirteen last night and I think that it is the strongest soundtrack of the three with some insanely groovy cues that really made the film a much more enjoyable experience.

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#12 Post by Antoine Doinel » Sun Aug 17, 2008 3:01 am

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Re: Ocean's Twelve (Steven Soderbergh, 2004)

#13 Post by Niale » Thu Aug 30, 2012 8:27 am

I think oceans 12 is a complete success. Right from the start you know that you are in a psychedelic mind trip, from a bash of colors we go to a zoom out of a transparent piece of decoration. The object is some sort of useless optical, a sort of magnifying glass with no function of any sensible kind. Enforcing the importance of visuals, and of distortions to these visuals. Just as Brad Pitt jumps out the window, at the start of the film, so too can the audience, it's all the warning one needs.

It's unfortunate that people were so hard on this film. I think everyone will agree that if the entire plan for the robbery in oceans 11 was revealed to the audience first thing, people would not have cared for the movie at all. So, in short... A little bit of mystification is required, some senseless subversion of the audiences right to go from A to Z, with a happy ending. In many ways the plot of 11 is highly improbable, highly subversive, dangerously close to being soderbergh for the sake of Soderbergh. But it's okay because Danny's prophecy comes true, "they take the house". In oceans 12 its the other way around: The house wins. But to me, that's okay. Is that not the nature of gambling?

The first movie, to my mind, is about a winning streak, the second movie is the reverse, but when Eliott Gould says "Danny does not see it as losing" in the end, he means it. The film is about the joy of the game. In the first film they are only concerned with the big pay off. In this film, its all play. Which is why they end the film the way they do. So, you see, Im not saying the film needs a oscar for best screenplay, but looking at it from that perspective, the joy of gambling, the film is actually quite cohesive and, with a few exceptions, sees itself to its logical conclusion, with no more craziness than the first one did!

Or am I just crazy? I don't know could be. Regardless the scene where the team assembles around that model of the museum, and the gang is out of focus and on either side of the frame... Stunning! The image quality in this one has something to it, it's dazzling to look at and makes oceans 11 look like a hack color timed it, and not in a good way like Oceans 13.

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Re: Ocean's Twelve (Steven Soderbergh, 2004)

#14 Post by therewillbeblus » Sat Mar 28, 2020 1:28 am

I mistakenly wrote this off after seeing it during its theatrical run, though at the time I didn’t have the context of Soderbergh’s playful oeuvre to get what he was doing here. Well I’ve finally seen the light. This is a confidently perverse reconstruction of cinema, abandoning any and all expectations while borrowing and revamping styles and references with a dash of self-reflexive layering to create something truly original. It’s essentially an experimental film dressed up as a blockbuster, with more diverse heist odes, carbon copy 70s camera choices chopped together with nouvelle vague shots and editing, and enough visual gags to recall the early silent masters.

It’s not only the knowledge of cinema’s history in a bottle, but also a hearty laugh at the very idea of selling out for a sequel, doubling down on obscurity and Brechtian nudges to the artificiality of the entire ordeal. I love how Clooney’s persona of surging interest and perfection is stripped away so many times in the first 20 minutes with him carelessly ousting himself and talking to dead air as Pitt tires of his egotistical drivel after seconds, to the point that his presence is completely unfamiliar by the time the plot kicks in. I love the jokes of the group picking apart the Hollywoodized brofest of the popularity of the first installment, and how little anyone involved cares about the plot. Pitt and Clooney sitting around watching tv in a banal hangout spouting apathetic innuendo couldn’t be dryer and more scathing of the flashy flair against the grain of the ‘suspense’ that is actually the filler for these moments rather than the other way around. And of course the childlike back and forth with Cassel to reveal the audience their visual heist plan fun so that he can hear the meaningless title of being called “the best” sums up Soderbergh’s attitude better than any analysis could, other than maybe an affectionate embrace of catharsis for characters whose arc has been forgotten about by the picture so we have no investment to escape into, instead smirking at the offer and stepping back in the crazy.

The script in general is fire, and I have to wonder how much of what we get in the film is Nolfi’s, but it’s still often the direction and delivery that sells the words. A great example to illustrate the film’s strengths is Pitt’s line about Zeta-Jones, “so don’t expect any sympathy.. or empathy,” which made me crack up based on just how unnecessary it was to force out that second more compassionate option, while also laying a further gag on how people confuse the two, and then we move on because the joke is good enough to leave there without Soderbergh caring to give an ounce more attention to what the words (or images for that matter) signify alone, opting to create a feast, a collage of ideas that shouldn’t mix but do because they’re smart, skillful, and committed to by an auteur that thrives on eclecticism instead of complacency.

The rich details have more than just dual meanings, and I have a feeling I’ll be unpacking this one for a long time, but the cumulative energy is closest to a meta labyrinthine screwball comedy reborn in the new millennium. I wouldn’t have re-evaluated this without the effusive praise on this board, so many thanks. What a lovely rediscovery.

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