Debbie Ocean gets released from prison, however like her older brother Danny, yes that Danny Ocean, she has to plan a heist to steal a valuable neckless at the New York Met Gala, and thus she goes about amassing a crew of fellow thieves and specialists to pull off a jewellery robbery in the most exclusive party in America.
The Ocean‘s franchise is known for how effortlessly cool it is. There was something classical about the film, and there should be, as the original Ocean’s 11 is a remake of a Frank Sinatra vehicle. They were well crafted, stylish watches of cinema. We had George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon going to exotic locales, stealing valuable items, all the while being impeccable with comedic timing and their wardrobe.
And yes Ocean’s 8 feels similar. It has the cast and the chemistry and a complicated multistep heist with problems, twists and reveals. Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock, Anne Hathaway, Sarah Paulson, Mindy Kaling, Awkwafina, Helena Bonham Carter and Rihanna are all having a ball, and that is then passed on to the audience as we swing through New York watching the heist unfold with these new, exciting characters and their excellent interaction.
Standouts are Cate Blanchette, who steals the show effortlessly as Lou, Debbie’s punkish partner, even though she always seems underused, though that just might be her charm, she leaves us wanting more. Anne Hathaway is captivating as celebrity Daphne Kluger, and it is clear that she is having a ball making Kluger the most irritating so to make the heist feel that much more satisfying. Helena Bonham Carter and James Corden maybe slightly more in the background, but they both create compelling characters as Rose Well and John Frazier respectively. But is unfair to point to anyone in particular as even Rihanna, whose last outing as an actress in Luc Besson’s, interesting failer Valerian: City of A Thousand Planets, left a lot to be desired, does a decent job in the role of hacker 9-Ball.
But that similarity is preventing it from coming out of its older siblings shadow. It is very clear even from the opening scene that the film is trying to aspire to Steven Soderbergh heights, with the David Holmes-lite score, to the detriment of its greatness. We open with a scene where Debbie is in a parole hearing, like Danny from Ocean’s 11. There is an issue with Debbie getting personal in the con. We even have members of the original crew show up now and then to tie us back to the old films so we never indeed break away from the originals. Similarly, there is some shoddy plotting that feels very bumpy despite Blanchett, Bullock, Bohnam-Carter and Hathaway’s best efforts to keep it smooth sailing.
This mostly comes at the hands of director Gary Ross, most well known for having written and produced Big, who tries to ape the story and look of Soderbergh’s iconic film series. We can all agree that the Ocean’s films are not what one would consider ‘art cinema’, they have expertly crafted tales of cool and flare. Ocean’s 8, while it encapsulates the style and tone, doesn’t fully understand the motivations behind Soderbergh’s stylistic choices and at times appears to be a knockoff. It is that plus the constant referral back to the original films that mean that, whatever the fantastic cast do, we are unfortunately always going to be thinking of another Ocean crew.
Having said that though, despite it coming off as a bit of a knock-off, maybe because of the order these things arrived, Ocean’s 8 is still an entertaining romp thanks to the weight that the entire cast is pulling. It is them that save this film, they draw the audience through the slightly iffy plot stuff and the borrowed cinematography. People will say that Ocean’s 8 is a bad film because its main characters are all women, but I would say that the all-female cast saves Ocean’s 8. Without that, we wouldn’t have Cate Blanchett and Sandra Bullock being best friends and having a ball, I hope that they are able to get it right for Ocean’s 9 and 10.
You can watch Ocean’s 8 in cinema’s now