Ocean’s 8, 2018.
Directed by Gary Ross.
Starring Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, Richard Armitage, James Corden, Rihanna, Helena Bonham Carter, and Dakota Fanning.
Debbie Ocean gathers an all-female crew to attempt an impossible heist at New York City’s yearly Met Gala.
Ocean’s 8 is a breezy, flashy heist flick that will quickly pass some time on a hot summer day, but really, these actresses deserve more complex characters to inhabit, blockbuster or not. From the opening moments, information is given that Debbie (Sandra Bullock) is related to the deceased Danny from the previous capers (directed by one of the all-time greats, Steven Soderbergh) as she is set free from incarceration after serving five years. Ordered not to stick around any enablers for her kleptomaniac behavior, naturally, Debbie doesn’t listen and immediately reunites with her friend Lou (Cate Blanchett) to begin planning an audacious jewelry heist at New York’s Met Gala that would net them over $150 million.
The first question here is, why do it? Initially, the reasoning seems to be a rebellious act within her blood to earn her place in high regard among the family of thieves, which is sort of admirable considering the hijinks never get too bleak or dark. Instead, there’s a revelation around halfway through the movie as to the true ulterior motive behind stealing the necklace, and it’s not wholly about financial profit. I don’t want to spoil the reveal, but it does feel strikingly regressive and makes one wish the script didn’t go there, or at least had more explanation than a half-baked flashback. Still, the alternative disaster scenario is eight catty women betraying one another, a route thankfully not traveled.
Gary Ross (The Hunger Games, Seabiscuit, Pleasantville) is a competent enough director for the job in terms of making the glitz and glamour of the celebrity-infested showcase shine just as much as the diamonds themselves, but the writing from him and relative newcomer Olivia Milch (she is also working on the upcoming Barbie production) isn’t as concerned with making each individual’s personality equally luminous. Beyond specific character traits meant to provide something useful to the actual crime, there isn’t much to these people. Then again, if you’re like the lady near me “OHHHHH”ing” and “AHHHHH”ing at every shot of luxurious accessories you might not care and will be able to go along for the ride just fine.
And to be fair, the criminal portion of Ocean’s 8 is entertaining to watch; notable character actors such as Helena Bonham Carter get to excel at being eccentric, Rihanna makes for a charming hacker, Awkwafina is a scene-stealing pickpocketer with upbeat antics and expressions, and Anne Hathaway gets to play a snide rich actress that isn’t as clueless as you might assume. Those are just the standouts, but everyone does a serviceable job, and that also includes the men (James Corden enters the frame at just the right time to keep the momentum building, dishing out quite a few funny one-liners).
In comparison to the other films in the franchise, the heist here isn’t as methodically precise, and while it is exciting in the moment, it will probably be forgotten rather quickly. Mostly, this is due to the fact that anytime an issue arises that creates some tension and asks the audience questions such as “now how are they going to pull off the heist of the century”, it’s solved in an instant. The heist comes surprisingly easy for the women from every stage, whether it be from infiltrating the security system to set up camera blind spots or forging replicas of the expensive items to use as fake duplicates while making a clean and quiet exit. There should be at least some danger for the participants involved, but that’s something never explored here; they’re in and out with the only real surprise being the actual reason for the heist beyond giving the accomplices a hefty payday.
Thankfully, the shallowness and obvious corrupt moral compass of the women are never shown in a mean-spirited or malicious way, allowing them to easily be cheered on. However, they never really click together as a cohesive team filled with chemistry, but rather cogs in a machine that each gets one important scene dedicated to furthering the heist. The same applies to a lot of elements in Ocean’s 8; it’s fine and individual moments are enjoyable, but do something more with the obsession Debbie feels for the motives behind the heist, give all of the supporting women more characterization beyond their special skills, don’t be afraid to let them nearly fail, or anything else to add some pop besides zooming in on fancy clothes and jewelry.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.co