TL;DR – It is not doing anything revolutionary with the genre, but I had fun from start to end in this well-acted and constructed film.
Score – 3.5 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Okay right from the start I am going to preface this with the fact that I do really love the Ocean’s 11 film series, well at least Eleven and Thirteen, not so much Twelve. But when I heard they were doing 8 I was mostly ambivalent, it hitting at the moment when I was really getting tired of the spin-off machine. However, then the cast list was announced I was very intrigued because it became clear that they were not phoning this one in. Now that I have had the chance to see it, it is clear that they were not messing around with this spin-off, and they come out of the gates swinging.
So to set the scene, we open in on Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) who is the estranged sister of Danny from the first three films. She is just getting out of prison after spending five years behind bars after a deal went south and she would not throw anyone else under the bus to save herself. Well, she has not been sitting idly by while she waited for parole, no for the whole time she was planning the perfect heist, for you see she is going to rob The Metropolitan Museum of Art during the Met Gala, well not the Museum itself but that is getting into spoiler territory. To do that you need a crew, bring on Lou (Cate Blanchett) Debbie’s partner from before jail who is running a vodka substitution racket, Rose (Helena Bonham Carter) a fashion designer down on her luck and their ticket into the event, Amita (Mindy Kaling) an expert in all things jewels, Tammy (Sarah Paulson) who is a logistics expert, Constance (Awkwafina), and of course in this day and age you can’t forget your hacker and the team has theirs in Nine Balls (Rihanna). Add to this, once you have a team you need a mark, and who else could you pick but one of the most prominent actors in the business Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) the face of this year’s Met Gala. You have a plan, and mark, now all you need is for nothing to go wrong, nothing at all, oh hi there complication Claude Becker (Richard Armitage) fancy meeting you here.
One of the key things that elevates this film over the quick/shallow nostalgia trip that it could have been is the cast, and their rapport, much like the original Ocean’s 11 and the remake Ocean’s Eleven. You have Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett who spend the whole film bouncing off each other, and clearly they are both just having a bunch of fun with the roles. Add to this Anne Hathaway is kind of playing a parody of Anne Hathaway and no not in a Julia Roberts pretending to be Julia Roberts kind of way. She revels in this slightly self-centred persona that is clearly a front for a deeper intelligence that she is hiding. We have Mindy Kaling that is just a delight whenever she is on screen, she has some of the best timing in the business at the moment and it shows here. Sarah Paulson has to do a lot of the stuff that moves the plot along but that doesn’t give her a lot of time to riff of the other cast until the gala but even here she makes a mark. This is the first big role I have seen Awkwafina in, but even in a film with a lot of really big names she not only holds her own, but she smashes it out of the park. Rihanna continues to show that she has made the jump, and could very much be the next triple threat. This is also a film with James Corden in it and even he is engaging and a lot of fun as an insurance investigator.
When it comes to the tone of the movie, it blends where we left off with Ocean’s Thirteen with a slightly more modern feel. So we have a lot of the marks that identify this as being part of the Ocean’s series, the first of which is the music. Daniel Pemberton had the difficult job of blending the musical style created by David Holmes with new compositions and it really works. There are also all those stylistic choices that you just do not see that often any more, like split screen action, flashbacks, and jumping from cast member to cast member. This all gives it a familiar style but it also steps out from that when it needs to. It was a good idea to take the heist outside of a casino this time around, it gives you something different to work within the story. It also allows you to set your film in one of the most spectacular places in the world where every camera pan is to some other famous work of art. It sets up new challenges and new constraints for the film which is a refreshing change of pace. Also while some of the tech is a bit silly, it is more plausible than smuggling two tunnel borers into Las Vegas without drawing attention so it all works.
It is also clear that it has a message that it wants to impart, and if you are going to impart a message I much prefer when you are being upfront about it. Right from the start when Debbie is putting her team together she is only picking women because no one expects them, and no one pays attention to them so they can move about unseen. Indeed, Debbie sums the whole film up when she is giving herself a pep talk in the mirror, it is almost like she is talking to the audience but just staying inside the 4th wall. She is steadying herself before the big event and she reminds herself why she is doing what she is doing, so little girls out there can know that they can grow up to be criminals. Now, of course, they don’t mean criminals, I hope, but it is more of a comment on the film world, and life in general. While I did really like the film, it did once or twice stop so they could have a product placement moment, and yes I know that helps pay for the film fine, but you could have been better at it. Also could you have not spoiled that one moment in the marketing.
When it comes to heist films it is hard to get really into the details as part of the charm is watching it all unfold and you don’t want any of that process revealed to you. So let me just say in the end, I do really recommend Ocean’s 8. It is a film that is just a fun time, it knows what it is and it excels at it. The cast is having a fun time, the heist is imaginative, the costumes are spectacular, the comedy is great, the sets are spectacular, and just sit back and enjoy the ride.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Ocean’s 8
Directed by – Gary Ross
Story by – Gary Ross
Screenplay by – Gary Ross & Olivia Milch
Based on – Characters by George Clayton Johnson & Jack Golden Russell
Music by – Daniel Pemberton
Cinematography by – Eigil Bryld
Edited by – Juliette Welfling
Starring – Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, Rihanna, Helena Bonham Carter, Richard Armitage, James Corden, Dakota Fanning & Richard Robichaux with Carl Reiner & Shaobo Qin and Katie Holmes, Serena Williams, Heidi Klum & Olivia Munn
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: PG; Germany: na; New Zealand: M; United Kingdom: 12A; United States: PG-13