Rusty: You’d need at least a dozen guys doing a combination of cons.
Danny: Like what, do you think?
Rusty: Off the top of my head, I’d say you’re looking at a Boeski, a Jim Brown, a Miss Daisy, two Jethros and a Leon Spinks, not to mention the biggest Ella Fitzgerald ever.
The Caper has a specific set of roles to pull off the job. Depending on the difficulty of the score, the Caper Crew will be larger or smaller. In the case of Ocean’s Eleven, the crew is sizable with multiple characters fulfilling multiple roles. Often the Caper centers around a Gentleman Thief. Once again, these tropes are courtesy of TVtropes.org.
The male version of the Classy Cat-Burglar may lack the cat jokes and themes, but he makes up for it with roguish good looks coupled with a breeding and style that manifests as a suave and debonair manner. He’s usually a charmer, too — think James Bond without the government authorization. Cary Grant used to play this type of character frequently.
Of course, this central role is filled by Danny Ocean, played by today’s Cary Grant, George Clooney. Ocean is always cool, collected, and smooth. He plays his cards close to the chest, as it were. He rarely, if ever, seems ruffled, even when hitting a snag in the plan. The only time he loses his cool is when Linus goes against his orders during the sub-heist of a “pinch” (an EMF disruptor) and leaves the van, compromising their getaway and injuring Yen in the process.
He charms his way back into Tess’s (Julia Roberts) mind and heart with only a bit of conversation and some deliberate fiddling with his wedding ring. There are only two times he doesn’t wear some sort of tailored suit: before he’s paroled from prison and during the burglary part of the heist.
He has skills and sexual charisma. He’s also The Mastermind of the caper.
The Mastermind: The leader, who gathered the crew, found the target, calls the shots and thought up the plan. Usually the most experienced in the business as well, and very respected by their crew otherwise they wouldn’t be able to keep all these amoral people in line.
Danny Ocean comes up with the plan, organizes the crew, and calls the shots. Clearly he’s been thinking up this plan during his stay in prison. He begins putting the plan in motion immediately after his release, seeking out Frank (Bernie Mac) to find Rusty’s (Brad Pitt) current whereabouts. He needs two more people before he’ll have the core of his team: The Partner in Crime and The Backer.
The Partner In Crime: The leader’s second-in-command, who assists The Mastermind in plan-making and usually almost equally as experienced. Depending on the nature of the crew, he might be the only one besides The Mastermind who actually knows what’s going on. May overlap with other roles.
Rusty in the first person Danny lets in on the plan. Rusty, once in, immediately becomes a co-conspirator and adviser. Once the two are together, whole scenes play allowing them to riff off of each other and complete each other’s sentences. When Rusty declares to the crew that Danny is out, after they’ve discovered Danny’s motivation is to win back Tess, Rusty is the only crew member who knows that Danny will still be playing a role in the Caper. They’re even costumed in a complementary way, as can be seen in the screenshot above wherein they convince The Backer to finance their Caper.
The Backer: The Client who is paying for everything. Sometimes he has a deadline or is fussy in some other way that influences the crews actions.
Reuben (Elliot Gould) is the money behind this plan – and I can only imagine it is a LOT of money to pull of this plan. He’s not a client, per se, but he does have personal motivation to finance their caper – Terry Benedict has torpedoed his casino, essentially running it into the ground. Reuben wants revenge. He’s also the one, that once on board, gives reason for gathering the rest of the crew. It’s his question of who Danny and Rusty have in mind that kicks off the crew-building montage.
The rest of the crew fall into categories, starting with the Tech-Skill Roles.
The Hacker: The guy who hacks into computers and whatnot, very often a young kid who is a Playful Hacker or The Cracker. Sometimes he isn’t a part of the team, but just someone who another character has ties with.
Livingston Dell (Eddie Jemison) is The Hacker of the crew. We originally see him running the tech side of a government surveillance job. He’s an anxious man who sweats easily and gets rattled under pressure. He also fills the role of The Coordinator during the caper itself.
The Coordinator: Basically Mission Control, and usually isn’t a role so much as some other character will have this role on top of another, usually The Hacker or The Mastermind.
Livingston alerts each crew member of the advancement of the many components of the plan from a hotel room. As the caper goes on, the audience realizes just how many pieces have to simultaneously fall into place. Notably Livingston loses some of his anxiety in the climactic action.
The Gadget Guy: The Gadgeteer Genius who builds all the special stuff you need to break into the vault security or whatever it may be. In a smaller crew he will often overlap with The Hacker, or the crew may simply outsource the job to someone else they know offscreen.
There are multiple Gadget Guys: Livingston, Basher, and Virgil. Basher (Don Cheadle) designs the explosives tech that will gain them entrance into the vault. Virgil (Casey Affleck) uses his remote control car skills to design a remote driving apparatus for a decoy van.