Dir. Gary Ross
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Rihanna, Helena Bonham-Carter, Sarah Paulson, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Awkwafina
Ocean’s 8 is a spin-off/side-quel to Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s trilogy, which itself was a remake of the rat pack starring Ocean’s 11. The twist here though is that the format is given a feminine spin with an all female cast. Oddly this didn’t receive the same amount of backlash as the all female Ghostbusters, which either shows that fans have finally grown up, or that they just don’t care. There’s an argument to be made that a female director would have also bought a new eye to the franchise, but Gary Ross is a fitting enough choice after shepherding the first Hunger Games movie, and turning Katniss Everdeen into an icon of female empowerment. Here he has assembled a starry enough cast to rival the Clooney/Pitt era, as he mounts a new heist.
Debbie Ocean, sister of George Clooney’s Danny Ocean and played by Sandra Bullock, has just gotten out of prison. She’s spent her time there planning the heist of the century: to steal one of the most expensive necklaces in the world. She assembles a crack team of females to help her pull it off, including her best friend (Cate Blanchett), clothes designer (Helena Bonham-Carter), Fence (Sarah Paulson), hacker (Rihanna), pick-pocket (Awkwafina), jewellery expert (Mindy Kaling) and… I’ll leave the eighth member of the team as a surprise. Their plan is to infiltrate the MET Gala and steal the jewels off of movie star Daphne Kluger’s (Anne Hathaway) neck.
In a summer full of moon hurling titans, and exploding Skyscrapers, Ocean’s Eight is a breath of fresh air, a throw back to the time when the biggest draw to the cinema was the star wattage, and the chemistry between those stars, and these stars definitely have chemistry. You buy from minute one that Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett are friends, they play well off each other, they’re effortlessly cool, and they have charm to spare. It’s the kind of film where you could pick any actress and say they stole the film, and that’s because they’re all served well by the script, they are all given something to do, and they are all given their moment to shine, without overpowering the rest. Helena Bonham-Carter steals the show as an Irish fashion designer, Rihanna steals the show as a no nonsense hacker, Sarah Paulson steals the show by being her usual fabulous self, Awkwafina steals the show whilst providing plenty of laughs, Mindy Kaling is hilarious and steals the show with her screentime, and Anne Hathaway steals the show as the self-absorbed diva. They’re all fantastic.
Gary Ross marshals them with confidence, but apart from the revolutionary act of casting women, he does little else to reinvent the wheel. This is a heist movie, pure and simple, and it leans into all the familiar tropes. The craziest things is that it works. The movie is a breezy piece of summer fun, it’s so cute easy to get caught up in the charm and swagger that you forget to look for the numerous plot holes. The biggest being the reveal of the eighth member of the team. It’s a little too convenient, and a lot too implausible. Oceans 8 portrays itself as a feminist movie through and through, which would be fine if the plot didn’t revolve around getting revenge on a man. It’s great as a sisters doing it for themselves movie without this added piece of baggage.
We also need to talk about the James Corden in the room. I like James Corden, and I found him really entertaining in this film, but his appearance almost took me out of the film completely. I couldn’t help but feel that it was almost a sketch of him parodying a heist movie, although it did get me thinking of a Pink Panther remake with Corden as the star. He is fine, but incredibly distracting.
Ocean’s 8 is a perfect summer film. Cruising along delightfully on the charisma and charm of its stars, this is the kind of film that audiences used to flock to. A proper summer blockbuster powered by star wattage. It had the remit to be something more, the #metoo movie, but it sidesteps gender politics to deliver pure popcorn entertainment, and there’s nothing wrong with that.