FILM REVIEW: Ocean’s 8
DIRECTOR: Gary Ross
SYNOPSIS: Five years, eight months, 12 days and counting — that’s how long Debbie Ocean has been devising the biggest heist of her life. She knows what it’s going to take — a team of the best people in the field, starting with her partner-in-crime Lou Miller. Together, they recruit a crew of specialists, including jeweler Amita, street con Constance, suburban mom Tammy, hacker Nine Ball, and fashion designer Rose. Their target — a necklace that’s worth more than $150 million.
Review by Melissa Lee.
When a revisit to the Ocean’s franchise was first brought up, reactions from fans were sharply divided due to one significant twist — the suggestion of an all-female cast. Prior to this, the Ocean’s movies, much like all Hollywood franchises, have always been overwhelmingly male, with the exception of Julia Roberts, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Ellen Barkin. (Unlike their male counterparts, none of these actresses appeared in all three films directed by Steven Soderbergh.)
If anyone has the clout and the ability to lead such a bold endeavour, Bullock is certainly a good start, considering her finely balanced record of comedic performances and dramatically demanding ones. As if it’s not hard enough for any actor to try and distinguish himself or herself in an established, successful franchise, Bullock was cast to play Debbie, the sister to George Clooney’s Danny. Bullock carries off this tricky balance with impressive aplomb, sliding into con after con to manipulate the unsuspecting people around her with entertaining grace. There are definite behavioural similarities between the Ocean siblings, but both the writing and Bullock’s performance take care to refrain from blindly lifting from the original movies. Believing that the confident Debbie shares the same DNA as the smooth, self-assured Danny is no stretch at all.
Much like Ocean’s Eleven (2001), the stakes in Ocean’s 8 aren’t just about monetary profit, but also about personal redress. Debbie re-encounters the old flame that betrayed and landed her in jail five years ago, but don’t expect Danny and Tess 2.0. While this side plot isn’t nearly as slick as the main heist arc, and Richard Armitage’s performance as Debbie’s ex is frankly somewhat lackluster, but Bullock’s commitment makes it easy for audiences to root for Debbie to exact her satisfaction.
These brief lulls aside, the rest of the ensemble cast show up in fine form, with highly enjoyable performances from Mindy Kaling and the ever-reliable Sarah Paulson, as well as a fantastic turn from Anne Hathaway as capricious celebrity Daphne Kluger. To be sure, Rihanna hasn’t always turned in the most stable big screen performances, but the self-assured, almost apathetic Nine Ball was practically written for her, and she carries it off with quiet but absolute assertion. The chemistry between the cast is not only comparable to that of the original Ocean’s ensemble, but even surpasses it in quite a few aspects. These actresses are clearly very comfortable with and around each other, but much more than that, one feels an underlying but almost palpable excitement in their performances at not only getting to star in such a big project, but more specifically, getting to do it with each other.
On that note, Ocean’s 8’s take on female friendships is something I’d like to see a lot more of in film. Sisterhood is underlined and emphasised without being shoved down audience’s throats as some kind of moral lesson, and is just as much a core of the film’s narrative as the concept of stealing is. Lou (Cate Blanchett) is essentially to Debbie what Brad Pitt’s Rusty was to Danny, and this duo’s dynamic is without a doubt one of the best things about the entire movie. It’s refreshing to see a female friendship on the big screen that isn’t primarily defined by women constantly reassuring each other or attending to each other’s insecurities (which are mostly borne out of situations relating to men). Debbie and Lou — and, indeed, the rest of the eight — aren’t there just to wipe each other’s tears and hold each other’s hands, but they’ll do it when someone needs it. The film showcases a wholly united, supportive female friendship without needing to include a cheesy or teary ‘You can do it, sister’ scene.
All in all, Ocean’s 8 stands on its own while staying true to the sleek shine of the original movies, making for a fabulous spinoff to the much beloved heist series.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Melissa Lee is a communication graduate with an enduring interest in film and TV and a deeper, more concerning interest for the Wikipedia and IMDB Trivia pages that accompany them. Her spare time is usually spent in a movie theatre or in front of a TV/computer with Netflix going at full speed. She also likes to think she’s an avid reader, but, alas, moving pictures on a bright screen are far more engaging for those individuals blessed with the attention span of a five-year-old, such as herself.