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Steven Soderbergh

Ocean’s Thirteen – Steven Soderbergh (2007)

And here is number three. Story-wise this one is again less interesting. One of the men from the group had a business rip-off which takes its toll on his health. The rest decides to pay back the competitor.

Willy Bank (Al Pacino) works on a massive and extremely luxury hotel with casino in Las Vegas. Ocean and his men are going to prevent that Bank’s latest is again getting a five diamond rating like his other hotels, steal the diamonds that Bank usually gives to his wife to celebrate another 5 diamond rating and they will make him poor by rigging the casino.

Of course there are some impossible hurdles to pass and an incredible method is come up with as a part of their plan. This time a tunnel will be dug to create an earthquake to shut down security.

With the usual humour, twists and turns in the story and pack of big actors, “Ocean’s Thirteen” is again entertaining, but still the least of the three.

Ocean’s Twelve – Steven Soderbergh (2004)

I remember when this film was shot, even the news mentioned that George Clooney and Brad Pitt were in Amsterdam for filming. Only a small part of the film plays in Amsterdam though, but indeed, a somewhat touristic part that is.

Story-wise “Twelve” is a lot less interesting than the first film, but the fun the crew had is visible. Silly jokes such as Julia Roberts whose character has to pretend to be Julia Roberts and Bruce Willis in a small part playing himself make the film an amusing watch.

The film starts somewhat weak. The man who was robbed in the first film has found all of Ocean’s eleven and forces them to pay him back. So they have to come up with another big robbery to make up for the money.

Hopefully the last part of the trilogy is not yet another step down…

Ocean’s Eleven – Steven Soderbergh (2001)

Only recently do I more often feel light light-footed Hollywood action films. There are some classics in the genre that I never saw and some of them are on Netflix, so I have added a few titles on my watch-list, such as the “Ocean”-films.

The first one is indeed amusing. Danny Ocean (George Clooney) hires 10 other men to elaborately rob three Las Vegas casinos. With a good script, descent humour, a nicely developing story and a whole pack of big-name-actors, Soderbergh takes his viewers to perhaps not a surprising finale, but he does manage to keep a ‘high level of entertainment’ and little surprises.

The film is much older than I thought. “Ocean’s Eleven” can be considered a heist classic. Not much action in this one by the way.

The Laundromat – Steven Soderbergh (2019)

Not quite was I expected. I thought this would be a comedy, but actually it is a ‘high end’ indinctment of the global financial system. The cast is pretty impressive. Gary Oldman, Antonio Banderas and Meryl Streep in the main roles; James Cromwell and Chris McLaughlin in by-roles.

An old Meryl Streep looses her husband (Cromwell) in a terrible boat accident. The company running the boat just moved their insurance to a cheaper company, but this proves to be a part of a big financial scam in which ownership is moved to all kinds of empty businesses on tax friendly islands.

Streep sets her mind on finding out why she does not just get the compensation that the boat company was insured for. She walks into a massive swamp in which people own thousands of companies with the only aim to raise their own wealth. Banderas and Oldman are the (fictional) masterminds behind the whole system and they ironically explain how all that works.

The film is amusing, but mostly in a painful way, because this is probably how it really works. “The Laundromat” is -so to way- an instructive comedy.

Side Effects * Steven Soderbergh (2013)

Inspite of being a Soderbergh and featuring Jude Law and Catherina Zeta Jones, “Side Effects” is not a very good film. The first part is just alright with a young woman suffering from the side effects of anti depressants she gets from her shrink (Jude Law). Then towards the end some obligatory plot-changes occur which make the film rather silly. Fortunately the acting is good and the atmosphere is not too bad either, but that story

Haywire * Steven Soderbergh (2011)‘Black ops’ agent Gina Carano gets double crossed during a job in Barcelona. Finding out the whos and whys a revenge action film unfolds. The story is not very original and not really surprising either, but since Soderbergh cut the film in pieces and rearranged things the story is not immediately totally clear. That may not be something you never saw, but something that does add to the film is the way that Soderbergh filmed and montaged things. There are full-blown chasing scenes that would normally have been accompanied by pounding music and exagerated sounds, but in “Haywire” the music is relatively tranquil and the sound minimalistic. I am sure that many people would have preferred the adrenaline rush type of filming, but this is at least something unusual. Also the camera work and colours are something atypical. Overall “Haywire” does remain a hip, contemporary action thriller though.

The Good German * Steven Soderbergh * 2006

“The Good German” is a not very special film that plays in Berlin just after WWII. An American journalist (Clooney) goes to Berlin to find an old love (Blanchett) and runs into a web of intrigue and rivalry between the different camps that landed in Berlin for the peace conference. What is nice about the film is the 40’ies way of filming and atmosphere. Besides that and good acting, “The Good German” is just a post-war drama.

Traffic * Steven Soderbergh * 2000`

An American movie about the ‘war on drugs’. This can only be a patriotic commercial for the US policy of 2,5 hour, right? Well, this is mostly what “Traffic” is.

As it seems to have to nowadays, there are different stories that either or not come together at some point. We have the brandnew highest official on the war on drugs judge Robert Hudson (Michael Douglas) whose daughter Caroline (Erika Christensen) starts to experiment with drugs and eventually becomes addicted. Two American policemen Ray Castro (Luis Guzman) and Montel Gordon (Don Cheadle) catch the drug-dealer Eduardo Ruiz (Miguel Ferrer) and make him chief witness against his boss, but this gives a lot of problems. Then we have Helena Alaya (Catherine Zeta-Jones) who didn’t know that her husband was this big boss until he was caught. First she fights the thought of her husband being a major criminal, but after getting threatened herself, she decides to take over his work. Then we have a Mexican police officer Javier Rodriguez (Benicio Del Toro) who walks the thin line between corrupsy and under-cover working while he starts to work for General Ralph Landry (James Brolin) who also to Hudson claims to be on a war on drugs, while he is actually on war with his competition.

So, the idea was to show different stories of people involved with the drugs-problem. An addict, the parents, policemen from both sides of the border, their officials, jurisdiction, the dealers, their leaders and the war between the gang. Too obviously this is used to ‘advertise’ the money-devouring war on drugs of the USA.

BUT, there is a good thing about this film, which is the artistic value. The different stories are shot in different colours, Douglas’ story is blue, the criminals in yellow, etc. which is a nice idea. Also there are some nice camera-points, wonderfull over-lighting, and long silent shots from helicopters or a car. However the film could have been half an hour shorter, the silent scenes sure add something to the whole film.

All in all this is just a nice film by the director of the wonderfull “The Limey” and the flabby comedy that I haven’t seen “Erin Brockovich” and “Ocean’s Eleven” that -if I remember correctly- still shows in the local cinemas.