There are times when if you ruin the end of the movie, it will make the rest of it make sense. One could make that argument for The Sixth Sense (1999). There are those who like big reveals at the end of a film. I am one of them. Yet, if you have knowledge of the conclusion, you can go back and watch it a second time and see all the places where what is actually going on is being hinted at by the director. In The Sixth Sense, child psychologist Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) is killed in the first few minutes. Because this is such a rare cinematic occurrence, the mind does not want to accept this as reality even if all subsequent signs point to it being true. Anyway, spoiling films is kind of my modus operandi, and since most of my source material has been out for a while, I feel no compunction in telling you the missing clue in Ocean’s Twelve (2004). For those of you who may have only seen it once, read this review as a refresher and go back and watch it once more. Like all installments in the franchise, this is a heist film. I truly believe that it helps to know that the target of the title crew, the Fabregé Imperial Coronation Egg, is stolen by them long before the climax of the proceedings. Hence, what you are watching is a dog and pony show that is less about being innovative thieves than about convincing a woman that she is in love with a man.
If this sounds familiar, then you are thinking of Ocean’s Eleven (2001). Ocean’s Twelve is somewhat similar, but instead of focusing on the conman that gives his name to the crew, Danny Ocean (George Clooney), we start with his friend and partner Robert “Rusty” Ryan (Brad Pitt). It is some time before the events of the previous movie, and he is surreptitiously returning to the Roman apartment he shares with his girlfriend, Europol Detective Isabel Lahiri (Catherine Zeta-Jones). As he settles in for the evening, she begins to tell him about a breakthrough on a case she is working on, a robbery that he had helped commit. Sensing that things were getting a little tense, Rusty jumps through the bathroom window, avoiding incarceration. Such is the life of a criminal that they have to take these measures. In modern times, the actions of Danny and his compatriots begin to catch up with them as their previous mark, Las Vegas casino mogul Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), has apparently found all of their identities. One-by-one, he delivers the same message to Ocean’s Eleven: repay what they owe, with interest, or in two weeks’ time they will all be killed. Knowing that Terry has the resources to make good his threat, Danny gathers them all together to ponder their next move. The obvious rout is to pull off more jobs, though they are now supposedly too high profile to work anywhere in the United States. Therefore, it is off to Europe. On the way, the up-and-coming Linus Caldwell (Matt Damon) asks to be a part of the meeting with the information broker in Amsterdam who will be finding them places to rob, the oddly names Matsui (Robbie Coltrane). Linus seeks to prove himself and move out from the shadow of his more accomplished parents in the criminal underworld. The first job Danny and company are given is to steal a stock certificate of the Dutch East India Company, the first corporation in the world, from the home of a reclusive collector. With their usual precise planning, they carry out their plot . . . only to find that the vault they hoped to crack had already been pilfered by a mysterious French cat burglar known as “The Night Fox.” His real name is Baron François Toulour (Vincent Cassel), and he is rich and immensely talented. Their problems are exacerbated by the fact that the person called in to investigate this newest crime is none other than Isabel. Though Danny and Rusty technically had yet to steal anything, Isabel suspects that they are in Europe to take something big. She soon figures out that their likely objective is the Fabregé Imperial Coronation Egg, which is set to go on display in Rome. This is also revealed to Danny when they finally track down François. The French baron reveals that it was he who told Terry Benedict their identities when his mentor, the legendary thief Gaspar LeMarc (Albert Finney) bragged about the work done by Danny and his cohorts. This is done in François’ presence, and as a pupil and admirer of LeMarc, the Frenchman feels he needs a contest to show that he is the better thief. Yet, before Danny and Rusty can execute their plan to swipe the egg, Isabel steps in and arrests all but four of their crew. Those who remain turn to Danny’s wife Tess (Julia Roberts) to pose as Julia Roberts in order to get them close to the egg. This scheme fails too when Isabel, watching on a security camera, spots the moment it is taken and takes the rest into custody, including Tess. With everyone sitting in Italian jail, they are visited by Agent Molly Starr (Cherry Jones), who arranges to have them all driven to the airport, ostensibly for extradition to the United States. Things look bleak, do they not? As it turns out, Molly is Linus’ mother. Danny and Tess go to visit François where they tell him that they had taken the egg before it got to the museum, and that the Frenchman stole a replica. Thus, they had won the contest, which results in François paying back Terry for them. Finally, Rusty brings Isabel to visit LeMarc, her long lost father who she had not seen in many years. This completes her move away from being a cop, which is convenient considering she broke many rules in pursuing Rusty and his friends. With everything neatly wrapped up, they all get together in Las Vegas for a celebration.
In Ocean’s Eleven, everything Danny did was to convince Tess that he was the right man for her. Swap out Rusty and Isabel in Ocean’s Twelve and you have roughly the same story, but set in Europe. You can rightly point out a lack of originality between the two movies. That would be fair. For this reviewer, that does not make the sequel any less clever. Again, it helps when you fully understand the proceedings. It is more of a love story than a heist film. I think people get a little too wrapped up in what they think something is supposed to be, and get upset when it does not meet their expectations. The Ocean crew are good at stealing things. Yet, you get to the end of the story after watching them fail repeatedly using their skills, and people tend to get upset. Instead of an elaborate sequence of events that rely on each other to achieve their goal, they use a simple fight on a train in order to make off with the egg. Having insider information as to its location helps, too. What also helps is understanding that this is not the point of the film. The various tricks they employ for their illicit gains are neat, but these movies are more about relationships. It is not only about guy getting girl, but the interactions between the guys on the crew. These are far more interesting to me than the crimes.
Like every iteration in the franchise, the criminals in Ocean’s Twelve are depicted as thieves with hearts of gold. This Catholic says that if somebody truly has a heart of gold, they would not need to steal anything. Faith wise, this is not what I want to focus on, though it bears some thought. Instead, I will touch on a brief moment when François crosses himself before jumping into the laser field guarding the replica egg. It is a cool scene, with electric, French-sounding dance music and some sweet, Capoeira moves. Yet, it is his gesture prior to doing so that irks me. It is a part of prayer that is taken for granted far too often. In case you did not know, you are supposed to be saying “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” going from forehead, to just above the navel, to left shoulder, and finishing on the right shoulder. Catholics are not alone in incorporating this into prayer, but I get annoyed when I see people doing it who likely have very little belief in God, much less affiliation with Christianity. It is almost like a luck symbol, and this is problematic. If this is something you do and you do not believe in God, then I wonder why you are bothering? Then again, if it leads you back to God, then so be it. Regardless, I wish directors would suggest other things for their actors to do with their hands.
I have seen Ocean’s Twelve many times, and I do not get why people hate it so much. Then again, I feel the same way about Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker (2019). It is funny what enflames peoples’ passions, but movies definitely seem to be one of them. Sometimes, people just need to lighten up. That is essentially what they did with Ocean’s Twelve. It is not meant to be taken seriously. I doubt anyone on the set felt the need to be serious. Hence, enjoy it for what it is: a love story with some clever dialog and fun interactions. I say see it.