I have to say that I didn’t think the Ocean’s series would come back. After Ocean’s Thirteen, I didn’t think there was anything else that could be done with this series, combined with the death of Bernie Mac which made a sequel to that Ocean’s team impossible, but I was wrong. The idea of doing an Ocean’s film with an all female cast was a stroke of genius, and when I saw the cast that was assembled, my anticipation grew. I was a bit apprehensive due to Gary Ross directing, mainly due to how much I hated The Hunger Games and how much better that series got once Ross was no longer involved and I will say that he is the weak link in the film, which is still a lot of fun.
The film focuses on Debbie Ocean, the estranged sister of Danny Ocean, who has just spent over 5 years in prison. Whilst in prison, she came up with a plan to steal a $150 million diamond necklace at the Met Gala. Meeting up with her old partner in crime Lou, they assemble a team comprising of disgraced fashion designer Rose Weil, hacker 9 Ball, fence Tammy, jewellery maker Amita and pickpocket Constance to plan and carry out the heist, with actress Daphne Kluger as their mark, through whom they will gain the access to the necklace they need. Now there are 3 things that I feel are needed for an Ocean’s film to truly work, an interesting heist, an excellent cast and stylish direction. I’ll get to the last two later, but for now the heist itself is interesting. By focusing the film on the Met Gala, we get a whole new environment for a heist and more stakes since they only have the time of the Gala to do the heist. The environment of the Gala also allows for some thematic depth to be added to the Ocean’s series through it being an all female cast, highlighting how women are often overlooked in these environments, especially if they are people like cleaners, wait staff or cooks, being seen as part of the background, which is vital for the heist to be carried out. However, there is a problem with the pacing of the film. Most of the film is paced really well, but there’s a point in the third act that kills the pace of the film, I won’t say much about it for fear of spoiling the film, but it’s the point that James Corden comes into the film. Outside of that pacing issue, this is still an engaging plot and the actual heist part of the film is nailed.
The main thing that works about the film is the chemistry of the cast. Sandra Bullock as Debbie Ocean is a lot of fun, showing the intelligence of the character and how much she enjoys being a thief, along with the personal reasons she has for being so invested in the heist. Cate Blanchett as Lou is a lot of fun as well, her performance just oozing style and charisma, working well off of Bullock to create a great double act. Anne Hathaway as Daphne Kluger shows off her skill for comedy, having a blast playing into the image of herself that the internet has given her, although saying more would spoil the film. Sarah Paulson, Mindy Kaling and Awkwafina are fun, if underdeveloped, working well with the rest of the cast (to be fair though, most of the characters in the 2001 Ocean’s Eleven were underdeveloped), Helena Bonham Carter is just playing a version of her go to eccentric character, but there’s a reason why it’s become her signature style and she is fun to watch, whilst Rihanna is surprisingly solid here after a fairly bland performance previously in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, getting some of the best laughs in the film. For other characters, Richard Armitage is effectively equal parts slimy and charming as Claude Becker, working well with Bullock and Hathaway, whilst James Corden could have been cut out of the film and probably would have improved it by tightening the pacing, plus the role he’s given doesn’t utilise his talents well (to be fair though, his talent as an actor is best on stage through stuff like One Man, Two Guvnors).
The third main thing an Ocean’s film needs is style and here is where the film does suffer. Now Gary Ross is a decent director, but he doesn’t have the stylistic flourish of Steven Soderbergh. There is an attempt to replicate this style in the first and third acts of the film, but the second act of the film feels fairly generic in terms of direction, editing and cinematography, feeling like any other crime film rather than an Ocean’s film. It feels like a lot of the style went into the costume design for the Met Gala scenes of the film, which was absolutely a solid call, there needed to be a strong style element here or it wouldn’t have felt like the Met Gala, which would have taken me out of the experience.
Overall, Ocean’s Eight is a great piece of fun. Buoyed by the excellent chemistry of the cast and a solid structure for the heist, which is able to help the film overcome pacing issues in the third act and style issues in the second act. This film feels like a proper Ocean’s film and that is all it really needed to do to be a solid time at the cinema.
My Rating: 4/5