Ocean’s 8 is an amicable, good natured summer romp, and despite some structural issues, the film is very sleek, whimsical, and fun. A film like this relies both on the “gee whiz” zaniness of pulling off a seemingly impossible heist and a good deal of charisma from it’s impressive cast, and in both senses I think the film succeeds.
After being released from prison, Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock), sister of the infamous criminal Danny Ocean, has her mind set on another impossible heist stealing jewels from the Met Gala. Teaming with her best friend Lou (Cate Blanchette), Debbie pulls together a unique group of women, each with their own speciality, in order to pull off the heist. It’s hard to balance a cast like this, but each character has a moment to shine, with each group member filling an important role in the heist.
The Ocean’s series has always benefited from the sleek charisma of movie stars, and Sandra Bullock is really strong here, giving hints of vulnerability throughout whilst remaining the mastermind needed to anchor the group. While I felt that Blanchette was underused, I enjoyed the dynamic she had with Bullock. Anne Hathaway’s character has by far the most interesting arc, with Hathaway handling some of the film’s most outwardly funny moments. It’s not a comedy in the strictest sense, but the cast gets some good quips, and the dialogue throughout is fairly strong.
If I had to pick out some structural issues, I think the film could’ve spent more time developing the characters prior to the heist, and while it’s hard to give each character a full arc, the film’s post-heist events are somewhat stretched out, and I would much rather have spent some time focused on letting the cast shine. While there Debbie has an interesting enough motivation in trying to get revenge on her ex-lover (Richard Armitage), there’s a lack of tension in the heist, and I would’ve liked more scenes of conflict between the characters.
Stephen Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven is one of my favorite films of all-time; a masterpiece in style, tone, and payoffs, it’s a subtle tribute to the power of movie stars that’s more about conning the audience’s emotional and literal expectations than it’s effective plot mechanics. There’s a little bit of the Soderbergh magic that’s lost in Ocean’s 8, but overall I found it to be a very enjoyable heist film with some thrilling heist scenes, as well as some gleefully fun transitional moments that are elevated by the sly direction. I’d be up for more adventures with this cast, and Ocean’s 8 fulfills its desire to redo a modern classic. Grade: B