Welcome to the IMPACT series where I dissect notable and iconic sequences from games and movies, and how they broadened my mind and left a lasting impression on me, years to come.
Because the house always wins. Play long enough, you never change the stakes, the house takes you. Unless, when that perfect hand comes along, you bet big, and then you take the house.
Been practising that speech, haven’t you?
I just want to start off, by saying that my mother, despite her limited film knowledge, has impeccable taste in pop culture.
She knew exactly what her sons would enjoy and was the first to introduce us to Star Wars, Pulp Fiction and of course Ocean’s 11.
I have to credit her girlish nature, because she was purely interested in this film from a pure aesthetic standpoint.
Something that I can’t disagree with.
This film is stacked with class, luxury and too many beautiful people.
This was the film that taught me, that you can get away with anything, as long as you’re as criminally cool as Danny Ocean and Rusty.
Upon watching the film for the first time, I immediately hit rewind and rewatched it again.
Ocean’s 11 works so well as a film, because it perfectly captures the glamour, the effortless style and wit of old-school American Hollywood. It oozes with style, charisma and humour, without trying too hard.
It also has the best written dialogue/banter between the two male leads, actors at the height of their game, handsomeness and star power.
Ocean’s 11 is a lot like putting on a tailored suit. It’s warm, reassuring, makes you feel confident and classy. You are more at ease with yourself, and there is an attractive mischevious twinkle in your eye.
It’s the best type of comfort, the warm burn of cinematic whiskey.
Ocean’s 11 is probably single-handedly responsible for the concept of the classy American trope in my mind. I didn’t have a very good grasp on the idea, but upon multiple rewatches of Ocean’s 11, I had written a thesis on the concept after the 19th time watching the film.
The classy American is the perfect mix of confidence, grit and class. He is consummately professional, relaxed and softly spoken. Well dressed with a touch of arrogance, because he believes he is the best man in the room.
After all, he’s American. He’s worldly, but prefers to stay close to home, because he doesn’t want to lose his connection to his roots. He’s classy, with an appreciation for the dirtier aspects of life, hence why behind his dry wit and humour, is a touch of irony and cynicism.
He loves the finer things in life, but doesn’t hold any mysticism for them. He doesn’t value things higher than they really are, and even regard some luxury items as almost superfluous, whilst others would not.
What this man truly values are his friends, and he commands their respect and adoration in equal measure. He rarely make mistakes, but on the few occasions he does, he’s consummately humble and almost mischievously unapologetic.
This American archetype is the rarest and best type of American male. He doesn’t have any faults, his taste is impeccable and he only seeks the best in life and himself.
And no one person, better personifies this dramatic character, than George Clooney himself.
I fell in love with the character of Daniel Ocean, right from the very start. The quiet confidence, the thoughtfulness of his actions, the manner in which he carried himself … this was a man who was in control of everything.
He did nothing without a good reason, and was relaxed enough about it to look cool while doing so.
Even traveling up an escalator, hours after leaving the clink, Daniel Ocean is the picture of effortless class and style.
And then there’s Rusty Ryan.
Brad Pitt, literally being himself.
A man who knows he’s good looking and doesn’t give a damn.
Whilst Danny represents the classy side of an American Gentleman, Rusty is the antithesis, the affable, irascible American scoundrel.
He’s wilder, more unpredictable, but also oddly the more capable one. Rusty looks like he can hold his own in a fight and isn’t afraid to use his considerable sex appeal to his advantage.
There’s an undeniably sexy sleaziness about him, a man who is going to show you a good time, however fleeting it is going to be, but at least you know it’s worth it.
Rusty, to me as a young man, was my favourite character. I wanted to be as quick on my feet as he was.
“How’s your day going?!”
Rusty looks at the bartender, bored and disenfranchised with his current job.
“Longest hour of my life.” he shoots back.
“What?!” yelled back the bartender, unable to hear anything above the music.
Rusty smiles. “I’m running away with your wife!”
“Great!” says the bartender, unable to comprehend anything.
Rusty smiles and raises his glass of whiskey in an ironic salute.
Aside from developing a serious man crush on the two leads, Ocean’s 11 also taught me the beauty of dialogue in motion.
This is one of the smartest, quickest and wittiest films ever put on screen. The dialogue is rapid, and the delivery only heightens just how clever the characters are.
Some of my favourite dialogue ever put to film is between Julia Roberts and George Clooney. You can see how much they still care for each other, but it’s bitter now, distrustful and a shadow of its former self. Tess is cold, unapproachable, a woman to fear and desire at the same time. Daniel pines for her, she’s the personal reason why he wants to pull off this job.
He wants revenge on the guy who has taken his wife away from him.
They say I’ve paid my debt to society.
Funny, I never got the cheque.
It’s so clever, rapid and multi-layered. I still go back and rewatch the film, just to enjoy how the writers managed to capture so much wit in so few words. It is an insanely quotable film and I believe Ocean’s 11 and Casino Royale are the two films that I know every single beat, every single line to.
In addition to inspiring me to write better screenplays, Ocean’s 11 cinematography also struck me from a very young age.
There was something incredible about the way how this film was captured. There is the perfect amount of grain to every scene, a wonderful use of light and natural surroundings to showcase how these characters are larger than the extras around them.
This was the movie that really made me recognise the importance of cinematography. Because to film these actors amongst the hustle and bustle of a casino, requires a certain skill. I especially, loved the natural lighting that I’ve seen a thousand times over in reality, the soft candle-lit warm light that just highlights the face of a person close to you.
Films like Ocean’s 11 make me appreciate the beauty of reality, because I’m not just watching it, I can go out and live it.
The final thing that the film taught me, was the importance of team work. It also taught me a very early lesson on leadership. I’m a vastly different leader to Daniel Ocean, but I think the essence of my style is tied to his. I want to garner loyalty and the best way to achieve that is to be successful.
Because at the end of the day, most people will suffer almost anything, as long as you’re successful.
But that shouldn’t mean that you put your team through needless suffering. Instead, I learned that everything needs to be precise, needs to occur for a reason. Whatever it is you, as the leader, you have to take ownership and be aware of how it affects your team.
Danny did the whole heist, but withheld a very importance reason why from the team. A reason that almost put the entire operation at risk.
Just remember, Tess does not split 11 ways!
I learned to not fear a big team, because of Ocean’s 11. I knew that if I channel some of the Ocean’s charisma and confidence, I could bluff my way through anything, until I worked out the plan.
And it worked a treat. I don’t think I’ve ever joined a big team with a chip on my shoulder or fear in my heart.
I shall briefly touch on the sequels, which are great, but aren’t quite the touch of genius that 11 was.
I would like to credit Ocean’s 13 for the absolute perfect way to say goodbye, something that I have used many, many times: See you when I see you.
In addition, for reuniting the team against a great villain in Al Pacino’s Willy Bank.
As for Ocean’s 12, that film was actually a pure audio experience. I fell in love with the music in that film, especially the use of Italian love songs to highlight certain scenes. I loved the European setting, but it was the European music, that really got me, especially the a la menthe song used in the famous laser dance sequence.
Something that I still mock dance to, this day.
The Ocean’s 11 film opened my eyes to the glamour of celebrity for the first time. I wholeheartedly understood the appeal behind these men and felt an instant urge to suit up and be as cool and confident.
I learned how to not fear big teams when it came to leadership, how to write better screenplays and genuinely find inspiration in other men, on how to behave, talk and treat one another.
Without my mother’s taste in pop culture, I would have found a lot less interesting people to model myself off.
This was the film that established the suave American male that I will forever hold onto as an archetype I aspire to and also gave me the clear sign that in order to be cool, you had to do so effortlessly and with style.
Like eating food in every single scene, whilst looking completely nonchalant about it.