After an 11 year break, the Ocean’s series is back with an all-female spin-off, a move that will excite and enrages certain groups in equal measure.
Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock), Danny Ocean’s (George Clooney) sister, has been given parole after serving five years in jail and immediately plans a major heist at the annual MET Gala. To achieve this Debbie needs to form a crew, including her former right-hand woman, Lou (Cate Blanchett), a hacker – Nine Ball (Rihanna), a pickpocket – Constance (Awkwafina) and a jewellery maker – Amita (Mindy Kaling).
But Debbie is eying more than just stealing the $150 million worth of diamonds.
In recent years, some major films have attempted to bring in more diversity. The most famous and notorious was the 2016 all-female reboot of Ghostbusters that was instantly hated by audiences.
There was a massive backlash with a vocal minority expressing misogynistic views. This led to some critics overcompensating with their reviews and any legitimate criticism was dismissed because of this backlash. In reality the 2016 version of Ghostbusters offered some fun visual effects but mediocre comedy.
One of the issues affecting the 2016 Ghostbusters film was it being a reboot instead of a continuation. Ocean’s 8 doesn’t make that mistake, it is connected to the previous films through Debbie but knowledge of the previous films isn’t required to understand this film.
All the Ocean’s films have been ensemble pieces: the ’60s version was a vehicle for the Rat Pack and the noughties films were an excuse for a load of famous actors to hang out. Ocean’s 8 follows this tradition, getting celebrated actors like Bullock, Blanchett and Helena Bonham Carter and talented comedic performers in the form of Kaling and Sarah Paulson.
This cast does provide solid performances and they all have certain personalities. Bullock and Blanchett are the professionals, Paulson disguises herself as a suburban mum who is up for a hustle, Bonham Carter plays her usual batty self; with an Irish accent this time and Awkwafina was a fast-talking street-smart pickpocket.
The best member of the cast was Anne Hathaway as Daphne Kluger, a vacuous A-list Hollywood actor and the mark of the heist. She was over-the-top and had some of the funnier moments in the movie.
The biggest surprise in the cast was Rihanna. Rihanna previous acting performances have been derided but she shows improvement as the hacker. She plays against type, having dreadlocks and wearing baggy clothes and she was a fun presence.
However, the most unusual piece of casting was James Corden as an insurance investigator. There was nothing wrong with Corden performance but he seems too young for the role considering his character’s backstory.
As a heist film Ocean’s 8 is a standard affair. Gary Ross took over the directing duties and wrote the film with Olivia Milch. Ross is a decent enough director but he does not offer the flash that Steven Soderbergh offered for previous films. There are some fancy transitions and the heist itself offers the expected glamour but Ocean’s 8 is a flat looking film.
Nor does the heist itself doesn’t break any new ground. There are the usual things, recruiting a crew, staking out the location, finding ways to infiltrate security, get people working on the inside and offer some twists at the end. There are some fun moments during the heist and the film does play up why some roles required to be women because of the locations they needed to be in.
Debbie also makes a point that she wants an all-female presence because they would go unnoticed at the Gala. This is the closest attempt at some sort of social commentary. But this theme is false because some of the roles in the heist like the hacker and the lieutenant could have been gender neutral. If anything, the film could have made a point about class because the crew has to disguise themselves as support staff.
In the film it is stated that Danny Ocean has died between films but as Debbie states, she is unsure if he is really dead or he just faked it. This is a deliberate effort from the filmmakers to leave the door open in case Clooney wants to come back for a sequel.
Ocean’s 8 is the definition of adequate. It is a standard heist film that is elevated by the quality of its cast and the characters are the big selling point.