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Ocean’s Eleven: The Best Role Clooney Ever Took?

by David Agnew

As one of the most prolific actors of his generation, George Clooney has showcased his talent on the big screen as well as the small screen in a number of genre-defining blockbusters. But whilst he may have carved out a pretty impressive career for himself during his almost 40-year tenure in Hollywood, his recent roles have fallen short of the societal impact of his performance as Danny Ocean in 2001’s Ocean’s Eleven. As the movie turns 20 this year, we take a look at whether or not this was his best role to date.

His early work

George Clooney burst onto the scene with a minor role in medical drama E/R as well as a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo in the long-running sitcom The Golden Girls. After a successful stint in television, he made his natural progression to the big screen in the late 1980s where he starred in Return of the Killer Tomatoes and eventually From Dusk till Dawn. By this point, he was making a name for himself in Hollywood and continued to star in a number of smash-hit movies alongside industry greats such as Jennifer Lopez, Nicole Kidman, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Harvey Keitel. His big break came at the turn of the millennium, however, with a role in a remake of the 1960s Rat Pack film Ocean’s Eleven.

A career-defining movie

As well as achieving a career-best performance, Ocean’s Eleven was the movie responsible for thrusting George Clooney’s acting career to new heights. With minor roles in television sitcoms and dramas now behind him, it proved he was capable of not only carrying a film but doing it exceptionally well. The movie, which was nominated for a string of awards at that year’s awards season, centred on George Clooney’s character of Danny Ocean as he concocts his next plan no less than 24 after his release from a New Jersey penitentiary. By following three key rules: don’t hurt anybody, don’t steal from anyone who doesn’t deserve it, and play the game like you’ve nothing to lose, he sets out to orchestrate one of the most elaborate casino heists in history.

Image Source: Unsplash.

The reception

As well as achieving critical acclaim from fans and critics alike and performing relatively well at the box office, Ocean’s Eleven also sparked a poker revolution and inspired cinema-goers to get involved and choose some of the best new online casinos in their local area. It was also one of the few examples of a well-known movie remake that not only matched the success of its predecessor but, as some would argue, exceeded all expectations to become one of the most popular comedy heist films of its generation. When compared with his 1998 role of a bank robber in Out of Sight just three years earlier, it is clear George Clooney has a knack for mastering the art of being a smooth operator on screen as well as off screen. Since then, he has continued to star in a number of similar roles as well as proving he is capable of mastering an assortment of characters from a wide range of genres within the film industry.

An enduring legacy

Despite Ocean’s Eleven turning 20 years old this year, it continues to set the bar for the heist genre and pave the way for any movie that dares to try to take its place. The movie spawned a second instalment with Ocean’s Twelve in 2004 which received mixed but favourable reviews. George Clooney did, however, reprise his role as Danny Ocean and continued to receive critical acclaim for his stand-out performance as the franchise’s central character. Ocean’s Thirteen was released in 2007 to mediocre reviews, signalling the end of the franchise. It did, however, appear to revert to the same approach as the first instalment which pleased fans all over the world. Despite the film’s central trilogy coming to an end, a spin-off movie titled Ocean’s 8 was released in 2018. It focused on a group of women led by Danny Ocean’s sister, Debbie Ocean, with Sandra Bullock at the helm. It also benefited from a star-studded cast of Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Rihanna, Sarah Paulson, Mindy Kaling, and Helena Bonham Carter.

Throughout his career so far, George Clooney has made a name for himself as one of Hollywood’s most successful and recognised actors. But despite a spattering of roles during this time, his performance as Danny Ocean in the Ocean’s trilogy is undoubtedly his most successful and career-defining role yet.

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