A suave crew of A-list actors played a gang of expert thieves planning a big heist in the 1960 original and 2001 remake “Ocean’s Eleven.” Frank Sinatra and George Clooney play lead players in the respective films, with a wealth of other famous charming accomplices joining in the fun; director Gary Ross continues the caper with a redux starring Sandra Bullock leading a female driven “Ocean’s 8.”
These films all work somewhat similarly to one another and “Ocean’s 8” operates with a familiar setup akin to Steven Soderburgh’s film from 2001. Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) leads a life influenced by her brother Danny, we are introduced to the character finishing up a 5-year stint in prison.
She claims to the parole board that she has changed and is looking for a simpler life, the crocodile tears help to sell the whole change in behavior. Almost instantly she runs a scam to get some fancy clothes and new makeup, finishing it up with a rouse that finds her in a nice hotel room.
The next step for Debbie is connecting with her old accomplice and best friend Lou (Cate Blanchett) to plan the next big heist.
“Ocean’s 8” operates from the beginning as a film focused on deconstructing the masculine driven action team movies that have populated the box office. These women gather to do a job, they each have a unique set of skills that are used to effectively help them throughout their lives. It is very clear that men do not hold sway over these women.
This forward movement is unfortunately undercut by the major crux of the film, which surrounds a rather annoying and cliche revenge plot involving a former love interest of one of the team members. It’s frustrating because the whole plotline is unnecessary, and it underplays the power that these women embrace throughout a majority of the film.
Having a man play a role that is meaningful to the con instead of simply being a mechanism of love gone wrong would offer a nice contrast to the plight of the team fighting for a piece of the pie against their entitled male counterparts. All of these “Ocean’s” films glamorize the process of stealing from the greedy, unfortunately this film lacks a real villain that will raise the stakes when the pressure is on.
Instead everything seems to work like clockwork which robs the film of the excitement and tension of the primary caper. The narrative issues are unfortunate because the cast of characters have some rich details and are played by a very talented team of actresses.
Sandra Bullock is sly and smart offering a knowing smile throughout the film, but unfortunately is never given the opportunity to take control of the film. Cate Blanchett and Sarah Paulson are also good in equally thankless roles.
Ms. Blanchett is cool and collected, while Ms. Paulson is focused and cautious and each of the characters throughout the film are given small moments to shine individually, but never achieve the chemistry that you’d expect from a cast this talented.
The fault clearly lies in the composition of the film which is more focused on building upon the genre elements instead of focusing on the defining aspect of gender that differentiates this film from the rest of the “Ocean’s” films.
“Ocean’s 8” can be entertaining in moments but gone is the flash of character and utter flamboyant beauty composed in scenes by Steven Soderbergh’s deft hands. While the film boasts a couple of nice setups and turns the heist in some amusing ways, “Ocean’s 8” never takes the fierce, female dynamic into more than a mediocre genre exercise.
Dir: Gary Ross
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Helena Bonham Carter, Rihanna, Sarah Paulson, and Awkwafina
2.75 out of 5.00