The master thieves in the Ocean’s movies are too good at what they do for their carefully planned heists to come undone if just one detail is off. They’re quick on their feet and have all sorts of slick contingency plans. But, Ocean’s Twelve, which is now streaming on Netflix along with Ocean’s Thirteen, features a fatal flaw that threatens to bring down not just the gang’s plan, but the audience’s suspension of disbelief and, with it, the entire universe.
You are watching: Julia roberts sandra bullock anne hathaway
It’s all because of Julia Roberts, destroyer of worlds.
Ocean’s Twelve opens with Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), the imposing victim of the group’s big casino heist, tracking down all eleven members of the Ocean’s crew and demanding they return what they stole from him — with interest. To do this, the gang heads to Europe, where they find themselves in a contest with a master cat burglar known as the Night Fox over which of them will be able to steal the Fabergé Imperial Coronation Egg. After Danny (George Clooney), Rusty (Brad Pitt), and several other members of the squad are taken into custody when their initial attempt hits a snag, Linus (Matt Damon) rallies the remaining thieves and brings in Danny’s wife Tess (Julia Roberts) for an extremely meta backup plan.
It turns out that Tess looks exactly like a certain actress, and so the thieves aim to exploit this resemblance and have Tess impersonate the actress to gain access to where the egg is located. The actress in question is, of course, Julia Roberts. Julia Roberts is playing a character who is pretending to be Julia Roberts. Crazy as it is, the plan might have worked, had Bruce Willis (who appears in the movie actually playing himself), not been there, too.
Now, lesser versions of this scenario happen all the time in movies. When Peter Parker makes a reference to the Star Wars movies in Captain America: Civil War, more pop culture-savvy viewers might note that the MCU’s Nick Fury looks exactly like Samuel L. Jackson, who starred in the prequel trilogy. That’s an easy bit of suspension of disbelief, though, because it’s not really relevant to the plot, and we can just ignore the implication that Jackson also exists in the MCU. This isn’t the case with Ocean’s Twelve, which takes this little meta-wrinkle and, by making it an essential and remarked upon part of the plot, expands it into a fissure which becomes a black hole that sucks the entire fiction of the film into oblivion.
Because Ocean’s Twelve is explicitly establishing that the actor who plays one of the characters exists in the world of the film, and that the character has a noticeable resemblance to the actor, we’re invited (or perhaps forced) to grapple with the implications of that.
There are two main conclusions we can draw from this plot point. The first is that every character in the franchise also looks like the actor who plays them, and that all the other actors exist in the film’s universe, too. (The alternative is that while Julia Roberts exists, actors like George Clooney and Brad Pitt do not exist, which is a whole other butterfly effect that we’ll get into). The second conclusion is that while the actors may exist in the film universe, the Ocean’s movies do not, which could have major implications for the actors’ film careers and director Steven Soderbergh.
The Ocean’s movies make it clear that real-life celebrities exist in this universe (Topher Grace makes some cameos, for instance, and Bruce Willis plays himself), but by confirming that Julia Roberts exists, Ocean’s Twelve implies that all the other actors do, too. Having established that Roberts exists in the Ocean’s universe, you can’t help but wonder why everyone in the first movie wasn’t constantly mistaking Tess for Roberts — or why people weren’t astounded that she was hanging out with dead-ringers for George Clooney and Brad Pitt. You’d think the entire heist plan would have fallen apart just because a group of nearly a dozen famous actor lookalikes isn’t exactly inconspicuous.
If all the characters do have actor doppelgangers, though, why did Linus (who again, is played by Matt Damon) need to recruit Tess for his makeshift egg-stealing plan? Why didn’t Linus just exploit the fact that he looks exactly like Hollywood actor and Oscar-winning screenwriter Matt Damon? It gets deeper — why didn’t Bruce Willis also mistake Linus for Damon when he saw him alongside “Julia Roberts.” Willis and Damon have not been in a movie together (aside from Twelve), but Willis starred in Armageddon alongside Damon’s longtime collaborator Ben Affleck. Surely he’d be familiar enough with Damon’s existence to recognize him?
Unless, of course, Matt Damon doesn’t exist in the world of the Ocean’s movies. That possibility is more troubling because it sends shockwaves through the entire universe. If Matt Damon doesn’t exist, for instance, does he write and star in Good Will Hunting with Affleck? Would Affleck’s star power be great enough without Good Will Hunting for him to get the lead role in Armageddon alongside Willis?
If you erase every actor from the Ocean’s crew except for Roberts, like some sort of Hollywood Thanos, cinema looks very different. If, say, Brad Pitt doesn’t exist, then the 2001 film The Mexican probably doesn’t either, which means that Roberts never starred in it. Same goes for 2002’s Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, which was directed by Clooney and featured Pitt and Damon in cameo roles. Ocean’s Twelve actress Catherine Zeta-Jones played Roberts’ sister in 2001’s America’s Sweethearts, so that film’s out too. Heck, Damon makes a tiny appearance in Mystic Pizza, filmed before he was famous. But, if Damon doesn’t exist, then it’s possible that Mystic Pizza doesn’t exist, and without her breakthrough role, would Roberts have managed to have a career that would make her as famous as she apparently still is in the Ocean’s Twelve fiction? Suddenly, Roberts’ filmography is looking pretty thin.
Using the logic that any films who involve Ocean’s actors do not exist, we can go and just erase huge swaths of cinema history. Bruce Willis may exist in the Ocean’s universe, but the 1995 film Twelve Monkeys, which co-starred Brad Pitt, does not. Movies like Fight Club, Seven, Batman & Robin, The Perfect Storm, Saving Private Ryan, and The Untouchables can’t exist. ER is gone. The Dick Van Dyke Show never happened, too, because it’s creator, Carl Reiner, appears in the Ocean’s movies.
There is, it should be noted, one possible way to fill this plot hole, although it comes with its own issues. Perhaps Clooney, Pitt, and the rest all still exist, but they look different and therefore don’t resemble the Ocean’s crew. It’s not any less confusing that Julia Roberts would be the only actor whose appearance didn’t change, though, and this solution is a cop-out that we’re already in too deep to agree with. Plus, even this wouldn’t explain away another implication this plot twist carries.
The movie Ocean’s Eleven cannot exist in the fiction of Ocean’s Twelve. That’s pretty incontrovertible, otherwise it would be a lot easier for authorities to catch Danny and the gang, because they could just watch the documentary. Ocean’s Eleven not existing would mean one fewer film on Roberts’ filmography, which again would perhaps make her less of a star than she appears to be in Twelve. But, hey — even if Ocean’s Eleven is gone, Roberts would still be known for her Oscar-winning turn in Erin Brockovich, right?
Well, no, because Ocean’s Eleven and Twelve director Steven Soderbergh also directed that movie (which also shares an actor with Twelve in Cherry Jones, so it might already not exist). Without Erin Brockovich and Ocean’s Eleven, not to mention the other titles that would no longer exist, who can say what Roberts’ star should have realistically been in the world of Ocean’s Twelve? Soderbergh also directed films that starred other Ocean’s actors, like Clooney, Don Cheadle, and Catherine Zeta-Jones, but since it’s unclear whether or not those actors exist in the Ocean’s universe in the first place, the impact on their film careers is a little less urgent.
The Roberts Paradox, or whatever you want to call it, has strange implications for the future, too. Ocean’s Eleven‘s success likely sparked the early ‘00s wave of stylish, fun heist movies. One such movie that likely owes its existence to Ocean’s Eleven is 2004’s The Perfect Score, which was one of Chris Evans’ first big leading roles. Would there be a Captain America without Ocean’s Eleven? Maybe, but the whole house of cards seems as though it could come tumbling down without it. Assuming they even exist, do Clooney and Damon ever get voted People’s Sexiest Man Alive without the Ocean’s franchise helping their suave public image? We just don’t know — you’d have to ask Ray Bradbury.