Ocean's Eight - 2018
Director(s): Gary Ross
Writer(s): Gary Ross and Olivia Milch (screenplay) / George Clayton Johnson and Jack Golden Russell (characters)
Cinematography by: Eigil Bryld
Editor(s): Juliette Welfling
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, Rihanna and Helena Bonham Carter
Synopsis: Debbie Ocean gathers an all-female crew to attempt an impossible heist at New York City's yearly Met Gala(IMDB).
I was hesitant coming into this movie. Not because it’s an all-female cast, but because the sequels to Ocean’s Eleven haven’t been great. That first installment was a bit of lightning in a bottle - great cast, great director and a great villain all wrapped up in a complicated yet simple heist plan. It’s funny, creative and simply entertaining. So when the sequels came-out they just felt like lazy copy paste of the story beats that worked once. The trailer for Ocean’s Eight lets you know right off the bat, “we are trying to do the thing you liked back in 2001” and it made me want to watch Eleven rather than Eight. Now after watching it, I was… right. They tried to recreate the magic of the first one, but unlike the sequels, this one was at least fun. Not great, but fun. Let’s talk about it.
The story centers around Debbie Ocean, played by Sandra Bullock, sister to the mastermind behind the heists depicted in the original trilogy. She got out of jail and she now wants to pull the biggest heist she has ever done, one that she has been fantasizing about for five years. She reconnects with her partner, played by Cate Blanchett, and together they form their crew to rob the Met Gala. My main issue with the story is that there really isn’t a main villain. Or an ever-present force working to stop them from completing their goal, like Andy Garcia’s character in the first installment. So, you are just watching them pull off a heist against people that are just there and some are famous and we are supposed to care. I guess. It’s fine… it was fun.
Like I said in my Eleven review, there is a clear formula to almost all heist movies. The formula goes as follows: leader recruits his team based on their set of talents. The team goes over the planned heist, presenting the target, the obstacles and the work around said obstacles. We see the plan get executed, with a few unanticipated wrinkles for added effect, and a small twist is revealed in the end that the script intentionally left out during the presentation of the heist plan. Ocean’s Eight goes through these stages, but not all of them are executed perfectly. Weirdly the movie drags at the beginning and the end with the middle being the most entertaining part. The planning and execution of the heist is where this movie truly shines. But getting the team together, setting up the motivation and watching the fallout of the heist was just too uneven and clunky for me to fully get drawn in to the plot.
Quick note: the direction, cinematography and even the score was very uninspired – it just felt they reversed engineered the original trilogy and tried to recreate or come close to what Soderbergh did before them.
The movie overcomes a lot of its flaws thanks to the chemistry of the cast. Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett walk and talk with so much confidence and sex appeal that I bought them as long time con artist. They can talk their way in or out of any situation. Awkwafina and Sarah Paulson are hilarious on completely different sides of the spectrum. Anne Hathaway and Helena Bonham Carter were perfect like always and director Gary Ross didn’t ask much of Rihanna and she played her part well and held her own among this star-studded cast. The only weak link, and it’s not a reflection on her but her character, was Mindy Kaling since she isn’t really given much to play with and gets lost amongst the other characters.
Ocean’s Eight is a fine heist movie that copy pastes the story beats of the many heist movies that came before it. With nothing original and lacking the main villain or antagonist for our protagonist, I walked away with a lukewarm feeling about my experience. I did enjoy the characters and I had some fun along the way but I can’t shake off the feeling that this could’ve easily been a far better experience if they had given these characters their own world, instead of forcing them to be in the Ocean’s universe. Bullock and Blanchet were great and I’m really looking forward to Awkwafina’s next project. I had fun and that’s why I love movies.
Ocean’s Eight is currently in theaters. Wait for it to hit Netflix.
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