Ocean’s 8, directed by Gary Ross (The Hunger Games, Pleasantville), following in the footsteps of the Steven Soderbergh Ocean’s trilogy from a number of years back, brings an all-female cast to the world of heists and confidence games. It is a good film, one that is enjoyable and fun to watch, though it does falter in giving each member of the team enough to do and a finale that lasts a lot longer than it needs to.
Sandra Bullock stars as Debbie Ocean, sister of George Clooney’s Danny Ocean from the previous films. She’s fresh out of jail and looking to pull off a big score. Turns out heists and confidence games run in the family. She turns to her old partner, Lou (Cate Blanchett), and starts to put together a team to lift a diamond necklace during the Met Gala event.
The collecting of each member of the heist is always a good judgment of what’s ahead, and Ocean’s 8 manages to deliver a solid enough run to give each and every character something before they head into their respective job roles. Each says something about their respective character and personality and injects some style into setting up their skills. There’s pickpocketing, hacking, the art of the sell, diamond expertise, and the like. The best of the bunch is Sarah Paulson’s Tammy, a suburban mom with a nice enough looking life… who just so happens to be running a truck heist business out of her garage.
Bullock has a charm that works to the film’s advantage, her determination and secondary motive for the job a good thrust, but the issue becomes that much of it is surface level development. Apart from some funny lines here and there, she is a good lead but needed some more material to really deliver. She plays the character as someone who is so certain of her skills that it does lead to having some problems with the stakes never feeling high enough against her and her crew, but Bullock and the writing does keep it under check for the most part.
Blanchett is criminally underused in the film, functioning more as Bullock’s sidekick and conscience than another character. She is more to move the plot along, which is incredibly disappointing when having someone of that caliber to heighten any and everything.
Of the remaining cast, Helena Bonham Carter and Paulson are the two actresses who stand out. Carter’s withering fashion designer character, Rose, is the kind of character that gives her something to work with, in the form of convincing people of things in comical ways, or a scene where she must scan the diamond necklace and uses her whole body to exaggerate the look. Paulson becomes a secret weapon of sorts, a character who is not showy in any way but is dependable and always present, and Paulson plays it to such perfection that it manages to elevate her over nearly everyone else. Anne Hathaway also gets to play something of a self-centered celebrity in love with herself and yet insecure when it comes down to it.
The main event, the jewel heist, is the highlight of the film. Moving all of the characters around, and giving them all their piece of the action, works well, and gives Hathaway the room to shine as the heist centers around the necklace she’s wearing. The movie keeps the pace during the sequence always moving, adding in the little bumps and diversions along the way and keeping up the tension throughout. The Met Gala also means some celebrity cameos, which can come off as a little shallow and trying too hard, but is also necessary given what the event is and needing them to be present.
The main issue of the movie is that the last stretch drags and drags, functioning as a cherry on top when the cake underneath has already been eaten. It dampens the fun of what had come before, even though the late addition character has some good lines. Logan Lucky—another recent heist film—ran into a similar issue, whereas it was concise compared to this longer stretch. Coupled with some characters needing far more time and development, it can be a bit of a disappointment, but there are certainly pieces in there that are fun and engaging.
When compared to the Soderbergh’s Ocean’s trilogy, the movie can hold its own to them, though it lacks the flair and excitement that a filmmaker like Soderbergh can deliver. The cast in this film are all great and fun to watch, but at the same time, some aren’t given nearly enough to do until the heist. Ocean’s 8 is the kind of film that is a crowd pleaser, and there is enough to like that it is easy enough to recommend for that. But at the same time, there could have been more to it, mostly in giving this excellent of a cast a little more to work with and having a stronger finish. But for the start of potentially a new series of heist movies, this hits the mark.