Gary Ross’s Ocean’s 8 is an all-female reboot of the wildly popular Ocean’s trilogy from the 2000s (those films directed by Steven Soderbergh). In the film, Danny Ocean’s sister Deborah (Sandra Bullock) gets paroled from prison after almost six years of detention. During those five plus years, Debbie planned an intricate heist of a $150 million Cartier diamond necklace.
Debbie and her partner (Cate Blanchett) round up a crew of criminal specialists (Helena Bonham Carter, Rihanna, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina) to pull off the heist during the Met Gala, where they have arranged the necklace to be worn around the neck of famous actress Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway).
Ocean’s 8 succeeds in capturing a similar tonal vibe to its brother films. It is light on its feet and heavily plotted. All the same, the film feels more like the derivative Ocean’s Twelve and Ocean’s Thirteen than the fresh-faced original.
But the film is entirely watchable. The cast has energy and charisma. There isn’t really a weak link among them, the closest being Rihanna as a hacker, but her more background role is met with a serviceable performance.
A bit more on this, though. When I say someone has a “background role” in this movie, it doesn’t mean much. Because, for the most part, everyone’s role is background. Bullock is the clear lead, and much of the action revolves around her plotting, but the other characters are kind of superfluous. They pop in here and there, but otherwise get sidelined and, in some cases, forgotten about. Mindy Kaling has a great performance in the film, but I nearly forgot she was part of the crew when she shows up midway through the climax.
This heist climax, and the following denouement, is exactly what one is hoping for in an Ocean’s reboot/sequel. It is breezy and fun. The lengthy buildup to this climax, on the other hand, becomes a tad plodding by the back end. As much as we need the planning phase to get to the execution, it becomes slightly tedious. In a film whose premise relies on the absence of tedium, that poses a problem.
Ocean’s 8 is flashy and easily digestible. The strong acting, the lavish costume design, the snappy editing. It all adds up. But it isn’t the well-oiled machine that it thinks it is. Not to mention it isn’t the most novel approach to a familiar idea. At times, it feels like an empty vessel loping its way to a predestined conclusion. That conclusion is worthwhile. Watching the entire journey to it: not so much.
Ocean’s 8: C+
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)