Ocean’s Twelve EXPLAINED

This post contains spoilers.

I am sick, sick, SICK of people all over the internet talking shit about the fantastically intricate and rewarding experience that is Ocean’s Twelve, the sequel to 2001’s Ocean’s Eleven.

Yes I’m talking to you.

Common accusations levelled by stupid people at Ocean’s Twelve:

  • Just an excuse to get the celebrities back together and sell movie tickets
  • Too many new and/or insignificant characters
  • I didn’t understand what was going on
  • The twist ending makes the whole movie totally pointless

These complaints are all wrong, and everybody who believes them is just too stupid to understand the story. Yes I said it. The movie is genius. YOU are stupid.

I love this movie. It is so dense. There are so many different stories being told at once, and the best part of all is that you don’t even realise it. Every scene, every line, every shot has a place in grand scheme, but sure it seems unimportant if you aren’t paying attention. By the end, all the story threads are wrapped up. Everybody who was being conned, whether you realised it or not, have been conned (including the audience), and the gang get together for a cheery game of poker to say, “fuck you, we win because we have friends and keep things professional.”

Who is Being Conned?

This film is all about people being conned. People feel ‘conned’ out of the price of their movie ticket. They don’t understand what is going on. They think there is only one story – the story about Benedict wanting his money back. No way. That is the merest excuse for the plot to start. The rest of the plot is infinitely more interesting, and dense. Let’s try to name every single con that is being pulled in the film:

  • The Night Fox is conning Ocean’s Eleven (so he thinks) with an un-winnable challenge.
  • Ocean’s Eleven are conning the Night Fox so he will pay off Benedict, having already won his challenge.
  • Le Marc is conning the Night Fox (we find out later).
  • Le Marc is (openly) conning Ocean’s Eleven to get the egg and his daughter from them all for nothing.
  • Ocean’s Eleven are conning Isabel to make their con of the Night Fox more believable.
  • Isabel is conning the Italian police out of their resources, like father like daughter.
  • Isabel is conning Nagel into betraying Rusty.
  • The Night Fox is conning Benedict into shepherding Ocean’s Eleven right to his doorstep.
  • Le Marc is conning Isabel by playing dead and hiding the fact that he is her father.
  • Linus’ Mom is conning Isabel out of her prisoners.
  • Danny is conning Tess into experiencing the world of the con artist, so she can see why he doesn’t want to retire.
  • Rusty is conning Isabel to win her back.
  • Rusty is conning Ocean’s Eleven by hiding Isabel from them.
  • The Night Fox is conning Matsui into hiring Ocean’s Eleven for a job that puts them right where he wants them.
  • Either the Night Fox or Le Marc or both are conning van de Woude out of his stock certificate.

and perhaps the most entertaining running joke of all,

  • Ocean’s gang are all conning the amateur Linus about feeling important!!

No wonder the average punter hates this film! So many characters are being conned and it can be hard to follow. This is not a popcorn movie. This is intricate shit, and I am going to spend the next few thousand words blowing your mind by analysing it scene by scene, to show you just how wrong you are.

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This analysis of Ocean’s Twelve will be written in two parts. Part One will be a general discussion of characters and plot. Part Two will be a chronological timeline with all the sneaky stuff inserted in the right places to spell it all out for you troglodytes. 

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Part One: THIS MOVIE IS NOT ABOUT GEORGE CLOONEY

Let me just say it over and over again. This movie is NOT ABOUT GEORGE CLOONEY.

In many, many ways, this story is all about Le Marc. Forget George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, forget all the celebrities. They are completely incidental to the real, central plot of this film. Basically this film should be renamed “Le Marc and His Subordinates“.

This right here, right off the bat, is the first con of the movie. The con of the audience. The audience is being conned into believing that they are watching a story about Ocean’s gang. Our eyes are primed to gaze at interesting story events happening to them. The famous people. The names on the poster. The audience tunes out the rest of the details that tell the real story. Le Marc is only mentioned in passing, alluded to in hushed tones, and his existence and involvement in the entire plot is only revealed at the very, very end. Blink and you’ll miss him. Don’t blink. Pay attention now.

Le Marc is truly our protagonist in this film. Le Marc is the one who moves all the story along. It’s just that we don’t get to see much of him. We only see this story from the perspective of Ocean’s gang. In the final evaluation, everyone who thinks they are conning someone else in this film is really being conned by Le Marc. So it’s important you know who he is, what he wants, and how he gets it.

Le Marc, quite simply, is the greatest thief that ever lived. We are told this many times. He steals his prizes not with threats and violence, like any common bank robber, but by cunning manipulation. The con. As Isabel tells us, he practices the ‘long con’. What is the long con? The long con, as the name suggests, is perpetrated over a long period of time, with the use of perhaps a secret identity or alias, to gain the victim’s trust, to extract secrets, items, leverage, or other valuable assets, while remaining totally above suspicion.

The name Le Marc itself is one such alias, used to protect his family. The fact that Isabel’s father used an alias tells us something about him. Le Marc loves his family, or more specifically, he loves his daughter. He wants to protect her from harm, only, he didn’t count on the irrationality of emotions. Le Marc’s wife, Isabel’s mother, didn’t approve of any of the thievery shenanigans. She made him return the Faberge Egg that was his most coveted and hard-won prize, and then she stole his daughter away, threatening to turn him in to the police if he ever tried to contact her. His wife was obviously so concerned for their daughter that she didn’t care how good he was at remaining above suspicion. His wife simply said “no” to all of it, and to hell with his career. The long con is a matter of keeping your mind in the game to stay ahead of everybody, but there was no conning her when she was driven by her strong emotion (fear for daughter). As far as his wife was concerned, any risk was too much risk when it came to their daughter’s safety.

This tells us more about Le Marc. I think he has an inferiority complex. He worked so, so hard to become “by far the greatest thief that ever lived.” But in one move it was stolen from him. Wait… STOLEN! From HIM! Nobody steals from Le Marc! He must have been devastated. His wife stole his daughter, AND his title in one fell swoop. He failed the test of being good enough to convince his wife that he could protect their anonymity. That was the real test of his thievery skills. And ever since his daughter, Isabel, was taken from him when she was 9 years old, he has been yearning, scheming, worrying, and working his way back to the top.

The film Ocean’s Twelve is about Le Marc’s final grand play to redeem himself as the greatest thief that ever lived. Le Marc’s comeback has been literally decades in the making. In this film, Le Marc shows himself to be truly the master of the long con. A con that is decades long.

What exactly does Le Marc want, then? His wants are very simple. First: he wants his daughter. Second: he wants his Faberge Egg. Third: he wants his title!!! The fact that the Night Fox goes around challenging people to duels to prove that he (the Night Fox) is the greatest thief in the world, is offensive to Le Marc, as it shows a plain lack of respect. Le Marc, after all, has not retired entirely of his own volition. While his daughter is definitely his number one concern, as well as getting back the egg and the title, it is also important that he puts this young upstart in his place. Nobody, nobody may be greater than Le Marc. Le Marc is the greatest thief that ever lived. Thus it was, thus it shall be again.

So with his objectives clear, how exactly does Le Marc go about achieving all of this?

Firstly, his grand plan depends on waiting several decades for his wife to die. Though it causes him great pain to be separated from Isabel, he bottles it up and waits, presumably keeping tabs on her using aliases. He knows Isabel loves his ex-wife (her mother) and thus he does not kill her in some way that makes it look like ‘an accident’, though, I am certain he has contemplated it. The greatest mind in the world considers every possibility. But he has his reputation to consider. He won’t go down as the con artist that resorted to murder. Also, y’know, he doesn’t want to hurt Isabel by robbing her of her mother prematurely.

After several decades Le Marc has managed to out-live his wife. Check. What’s the next stage? Unfortunately, times have changed, and for the worst. Can he get his daughter now? … Oh no!!!!!! Because of her childhood trauma, his daughter has been inspired to hate all criminals, and has made it literally her life’s work to go after high-profile thieves and utterly break them. Isabel is tracking down thieves in order to prove to herself that she doesn’t need her useless thief father, to fix that hole in her heart from when her father chose thievery over his daughter. Remember, Isabel believes terrible things about her father, stemming from lies about him from her mother. She desperately needs to prove that thievery is a wasted enterprise to prove to herself that she doesn’t need her father. She will break anybody she finds. She is vicious, and cunning. Le Marc recognises this and realises that although his wife is now out of the picture, Isabel herself is not ready to embrace her thief father. Before he can win her back, she will need to learn… she will need to learn to love a thief! That, of course, is where Rusty comes in later. Rusty is the one who is charming enough to show Isabel that not all thieves are terrible people, and that she is capable of feeling love for them.

With his daughter on her way back to him, Le Marc’s second problem is that the Faberge Egg is now under highly enhanced security. Times have indeed changed. Le Marc, perhaps once a fit young man like the Night Fox, is in no condition now to waltz into that laser-grid field and dance his way around security. Nor is he able to pull the sort of complicated, multi-faceted heist that Ocean’s gang of Eleven can pull with their bigger manpower, if he wants to continue to work as a solo con artist. He is certainly in a pickle. The longer he waits, the more sophisticated the security systems will get. That is where Ocean’s gang and the Night Fox come in. He needs to gain leverage over one of these kinds of thievery crews to do his bidding for him, though of course the greatest thief who ever lived would gain leverage over both of them. He needs them, with their unique capabilities, to steal the Egg first, and then he needs to con them out of it. This he achieves by fanning the flames of the competition to steal the Egg. All it took was influencing the right people while remaining above suspicion and it falls into his lap at the end. Easy peasy.

Le Marc’s third problem is that his apprentice, the Night Fox, is getting so egotistical, driven, and anxious to be the greatest thief in the world, that he may very well soon eclipse the reputation of his mentor. Certainly, if the Night Fox ever actually challenged Le Marc to a contest where he had to perform some kind of daring physical feat himself, there is no way he could beat him single-handedly in his retirement. In other words, Le Marc needs to find a way to put down this ‘alpha male’ challenge using his brain rather than brawn, while maintaining the highest possible standards of behaviour in order to protect his reputation and title as the greatest (and most ethical and professional) thief in the world to begin with. He cannot, for example, simply make the Night Fox ‘disappear’ in some cloak and dagger murder, though, again, I am certain that he will have contemplated it. However, he does elect to give the Night Fox a prod; a nudge that costs him over $97,000,000, and reminds him that he is simply mortal and he has meddled in the affairs of gods. (As we see in Ocean’s Thirteen, the Night Fox does not fully learn his lesson).

A Word on Danny and the Tess Recruitment Subplot

Did you even catch this? They don’t push this very hard, so it kind of goes under the radar, despite being the only bona fide con Danny pulls for his own sake in the whole film.

Tess wants Danny to retire from thievery for good. But Danny wants Tess to change her mind, and even join the gang and see how much fun it can be to be a thief. But how to make her see things his way? We saw in the first film how Danny always thinks to solve his problems with a con, and so when Le Marc saves their bacon by secretly giving them the Egg on a platter, so that neither the Night Fox or Terry Benedict can actually hurt them, Danny is also given an opportunity to con Tess. Thus the ‘fake’ Egg burglary in Rome is designed to be so amateurish that they deliberately get caught and thrown in prison. Uh oh – who can rescue us? Why, Tess, of course.

Tess is enlisted to save the day working as part of the con, yet everybody else knows that the environment for her is perfectly safe. She will get to experience the thrill of the con, and learn about her husband’s line of work. Despite her many protests about being turned into a ‘master thief’, I believe the poker game at the end of the film shows her accepting her place in the gang happily. I’m pretty sure that we are supposed to understand that the “Twelfth” member of Ocean’s gang is Tess after playing her role as “Julia Roberts”. So in the end, everything comes up great for Danny. Tess is on board the with thievery lifestyle, and Benedict is off his back, so they no longer have to play this ridiculous retirement charade of being Mr and Mrs Diaz. Danny has his life back just the way he wants it – all because of how Le Marc arranged the events of this film.

AND YET LE MARC STILL BESTED HIM! Le Marc still got his daughter, his egg, and his title back from work that Ocean’s gang did. Le Marc himself didn’t have to lift a finger. He just set up the board and let it play out. The Night Fox is egotistical and unhappy at being used. But Danny, though, being a thief of the highest calibre, recognises the genius of Le Marc, and is happy to “render unto Caesar” the spoils of his work. Danny is happy to bend the knee to his King of Kings, Le Marc, because his King granted him everything he wanted. It seems that every good con artist knows that the best con is one in which everybody wins – the Night Fox of course sees the world as more of a zero-sum game where there can only be one dominant male at the top of the pyramid, etc.

TL;DR: Le Marc’s arrangements achieve everything he wanted, and also got Danny and Tess back into their normal lives, as well as reuniting Rusty and Isabel.

Part Two: THE TIMELINE OF WTF IS HAPPENING, SPELLED OUT FOR YOU TROGS

(Remember, the film follows the gang through two weeks of 2004, so all these dates are either explicitly mentioned or have been worked out based on being told something happened “x” amount of time ago. Yes, I actually watched the whole movie multiple times and worked it out line by line, day by day, with a calender by my side. And yes, all of this information is in the text of the film(s). I conclude nothing you could not if you simply used your brain, ya goddam critics).

1980 – The start of it all: Le Marc steals the Egg for the first time but is forced to return it. Isabel is 9 years old. Mrs Lahiri takes her away from Le Marc, threatening to go to the police and have him put away for life if he ever tries to contact her.

1988: Le Marc fakes his death in Portugal.

1994: Van der Woude shuts himself in his house with his precious artifacts and never leaves again.

1996: Le Marc fakes his death in Hong Kong.

1997: The Night Fox is making a big name for himself, stealing from the Tate, Louvre, and Prado.

1999: Danny and Rusty pull a job stealing “Incan Matrimonial Headmasks” but Danny is arrested and imprisoned. Rusty thus finds himself at a loose end and travels to Rome. He meets and falls in love with Isabel.

2000: Rusty pulls “The Bulgari Job” with Frank and Nagel in Rome, and has to escape out of his bathroom window because Isabel is about to bust him. He eventually finds his way back to Los Angeles where he finds work “teaching movie stars how to play cards”.

2001: The events of the first film take place, Danny is released from prison and the gang pulls off the Belagio triple heist.

2002: The Night Fox steals the King of Morocco’s yacht.

2003, Between Ocean’s Eleven and Ocean’s Twelve: Danny and Tess come out of hiding and try to reintegrate into society as Mr and Mrs Diaz, Rusty buys a hotel that doesn’t run smoothly, Linus continues developing his talent, Saul moves in with a lady we can assume was the “nice lady who works the unmentionables counter at Macy’s”, the Malloy twins move back to Utah, Basher tries to be a rapper, Livingstone tries to be a standup comic, and Amazing Yen parties with supermodels.

2004, Six Weeks before the film begins: The loud and annoying American businessman Denny Shields insults the Night Fox by saying Ocean’s Eleven are the best thieves in the world. (Toulour will later claim he thought about this for three weeks before acting upon it).

2004, Three Weeks before the film begins: The Night Fox contacts Benedict supplying all the information he needs to locate the eleven members of Danny’s crew and drive them right where he wants them.

2004 – WEDNESDAY – THE FILM BEGINS: It’s Tess and Danny’s third anniversary (again). Benedict tells them they have two weeks to get his money. The Night Fox presumably also uses one of his aliases to ask Matsui to hire a crew that can steal the Van der Woude stock certificate. Matsui contacts Rusty to pull the job.

First Thursday. Thirteen days left: The gang meet secretly in the back of a warehouse. Rusty has already got them booked on a flight to Amsterdam where there is the possibility of work.

First Friday. Twelve days left: Linus tries to call Rusty for professional tips, but Rusty spends the whole day out stalking Isabel.

First Saturday. Eleven days left: The sit-down meeting with Matsui. They are given the Van der Woude job and hold a late night briefing in the hotel room, calling him a “super-freak.”

First Sunday. Ten days left: Recon work on the rooftop outside Van der Woude’s house. Rusty calls Nagel, who has lots of ideas but none of them any use. Rusty then has the idea of using the “Schumann Special.”

First Monday. Nine days left: Prep day (not shown).

First Tuesday. Eight days left: Raising the pylons and carrying out the Van der Woude heist. The Night Fox beats them to it. (Side note, I assume the Night Fox, using an alias, is good friends with Van der Woude as a fellow collector of arts and antiquities, has been in the building before, and thus has already obtained the code).

Second Wednesday. Seven days left: Isabel is called to solve the Van der Woude case. She figures out it was Rusty who used her idea of the Schumann Special. She arrests Frank outside the nail parlour. Rusty calls “Frank’s associate in Dublin” who we assume is Le Marc, since we know Albert Finney has a UK accent. Isabel shows up at the hotel room and identifies Danny and Yen.

Second Thursday. Six days left – THE DAY OF THE DOUBLE CROSS: The most important day of the film, where the big con happens. The gang are being watched and have to escape from their hotel, and then they get on a train from Amsterdam to Paris. Once in Paris, Danny and Rusty meet with Le Marc who tells them to put on a show for the Night Fox, and how to beat him. ~~IMPORTANT: Everything the gang did before this point was real, everything after was part of the act. Stop yer whining about the plot being negated, this is genius~~ During the night, half of the gang goes ahead to Italy to steal Toulour’s paintings, as per the scam suggested by Le Marc, making sure to show enough of their faces to the cameras to be identified.

Second Friday. Five days left: The other half of the gang gets on the Paris-Rome train and steals the Egg while in transit. Danny immediately goes to the Night Fox, taunts him about the paintings, and pretends to reluctantly accept the Egg challenge, knowing he already has it in his possession. Nagel and Isabel speak on the phone. The gang do some recon work at the Egg museum, purely for show.

Second Saturday. Four days left: Isabel figures out that the competing thieves will target the Egg. Yen arrives in Rome in a duffel bag. The gang (Turk and Virgil) do more recon work that night, while the Night Fox dances his way into the museum and steals the replica Egg.

Second Sunday. Three days left: The gang do their final rundown of the plan, and Nagel arrives with his holographic Egg replica. Rusty goes to visit Isabel, who swears she won’t take it easy on him anymore. Isabel fakes the 1077 paperwork she needs, then goes to meet the Night Fox, who is using an alias, and receives IDs and info she needs to foil the gang’s Egg heist tomorrow. Linus and Basher are already practicing their secondary heist plan for later. Danny and Rusty stay up late drinking wine after the Night Fox gives them a prank call.

Second Monday. Two days left: The day of the fake heist in the museum. All of Danny’s gang gets arrested (as planned) except for Linus, Basher, and Turk. They regroup and try to come up with a new plan, calling Tess and conning her into getting on a plane to Rome.

Second Tuesday. One day left: Tess and Saul arrive in Rome to complete the lineup for the second attempt at the Egg heist. Despite fooling Bruce Willis, Isabel can see through their attempt to pass off Tess as Julia Roberts, and arrests them all. However her superiors are not happy, and the FBI, who are really just fellow con artists led by Linus’s mother (and I’m guessing arranged by Le Marc, since Linus seems genuinely surprised), come to extradite the prisoners. Rusty and Isabel take the Egg to Le Marc, while Tess and Danny visit Toulour for the final showdown and to return his paintings, which he has already recovered on his own (again, it is entirely plausible he has infiltrated every high security warehouse in the city using aliases. Who’s to say he is not employed as a vault technician, for example? Or the owner of the whole building?)

Wednesday. Day of the deadline: Back in the US, Reuben is paying Benedict back for all the money they stole, plus interest. We see on Reuben’s cheque to Benedict that this day is Wednesday 1 December 2004, the actual day of the week that year. It all works out. The Night Fox is lurking outside the window, though, plotting his next move.

Next Monday: Everybody gathers in a casino for some gaming and good times. Tess and Isabel have joined the gang. Everybody learns that it’s awesome to be a con artist.

So I’m assuming you can read English and can therefore follow the threads of the story I have traced out for you. It’s a lot easier to see where the dirty tricks were pulled when it’s presented chronologically. But as I said at the start, it’s not the fault of this awesome movie that you’re too stupid to piece it all together when it’s presented out of order. Deal with it. Ocean’s Twelve is great!

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4 Responses to Ocean’s Twelve EXPLAINED

  1. ADM says:

    A M A Z I N G L Y explained.
    When the movie was released I actually saw it like five times in the movies and after it came out in sale I purchased and have watched many times and now in netflix I have watched it twice. I’m still suprised on all the cons and love Le Marc.

  2. Michael Kaylor says:

    Excellent Analysis. Ocean’s 12 does seem to be neglected in the admiration department as a film, but I always thought this one was the ‘thinker’ of the group.

  3. Nick says:

    I love this! Thank you for mapping it all out. I really needed to see it all explained, because I know I love this movie but every time I get a little lost. But I always knew there was so much more at play.

    However I have one question for you. Why is the real faberge egg being transported by a seemingly young dude and not protected like they originally explained? On top of that how does le Marc know the whereabouts of the real egg? That’s the one thing I can’t figure out.

  4. Andrew says:

    Thanks!

    The young guy is no doubt a police officer — remember he is accompanied by the two plain clothes security in the next seats. He isn’t just running around alone, they know his movements.

    We have to use our imagination here to fill in a little of the details.

    But basically I would think Le Marc has been using an Alias to become involved with the museum organisations responsible for the egg. I think the explanation that makes the most sense is that Le Marc was involved in planning the route of the real egg, or more likely to buffer himself, has gained leverage over somebody else who was involved. Just like Baron Toulour, he might have an alias where he is also a nervous fabulously rich art dealer who might be called upon to consult on the egg exhibition?…who knows!

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