A few weeks ago, I was talking with Stepan, and we ended up on the topic of Oceans 11.
Stepan made an interesting case of pointing out that Benedict is the most powerful and role modelable man in the movie. Sure Rusty and Danny and the crew are cool, but they have to steal money from Benedict.
Meanwhile, Benedict doesn’t really feel the blow to his bank account as much as to his ego, and seeks revenge to placate the latter.
This seemed to make sense, but something didn’t fit. Despite seeing his point and not being able to come up with a reason why it was wrong, I still found myself repulsed by the thought of becoming like Benedict and attracted to the thought of becoming like Rusty.
I was watching the movie again a few days ago and I finally understood what repulsed me from one and attracted me to the other.
Here’s the email I sent to Stepan explaining it.
It finally hit me why we don’t want to be Benedict.
Rusty is playing a game. He’s seeing what he can do with all the aspects of life.
Danny’s practicing his craft. He’s smoothed out the edges and left the streamlined core.
But Benedict. He seems to have made a grasp and failed. To have lost himself in the striving and forgotten what he began striving for. He has money and power, but those are just tools to enhance enjoyment and accomplishment in life. He does not enjoy, and has accomplished nothing for any but himself. He preys on the weak- minded, exploiting and encouraging their flaws so they stay weak, instead of building something to make the world more strong.
His leadership seems stolen, not deserved. His enjoyment is the dust of a barren landscape, not the water of a thriving oasis.
In appearance he has won, but in substance failed.
Rusty shares his creed with Francisco d’Anconia & Ragnar Danneskjold, stealing from those who have found power through weakness. And using that power to build beautiful life, in his romances, creations [hotels], and self-improvement.
Danny does not build anew, but instead Cultivates that which has been built right. He is the guide and helping soul of the world, and he ensures that which Rusty embodies and has created will stay alive and not be used for corrupt purposes.
They chose their craft because they see what is broken in the world, that most are too weak to fight or even face. They know they must destroy it’s rot before they can build anew atop it. So, they destroy the dead parts which are feeding off life and spreading decay, and plant and cultivate the seeds for new parts, which need life and encourage it.