Ocean's 8 Review: Falls short of the original trilogy, but worth a watch
The large star cast of women and some half-decent cameos ensure that there’s no harm in giving it a go, provided it’s only for the one time.
All the hype surrounding Ocean’s 8 was for good reason. Rarely, if ever, do we get to see an all-woman lead cast in a film, and more so, in one involving imaginative thievery. But to the grave disappointment of heist film buffs out there, this spin-off of the wildly popular Ocean’s trilogy comes up short in more ways than one. First off, Gary Ross fails to inject Soderbergh’s characteristic touches of humour and style (which made the original series watchable) into Ocean’s 8. The writing is another sore point that needs to be discussed. This comes to the fore when the elaborate cons are in the stage of development. Sandra’s Bullock’s Debbie Ocean lays it all out to her partners in crime, but the transition from ideation to execution is handled rather poorly. The art of the con is what the film is all about, but the explanation of ‘what, where, when, and most importantly, how’ is not detailed and thorough as it ought to be.
Director: Gary Ross
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Helena Bonham Carter, Rihanna, Awkwafina
Much of ‘the how’ must be taken at face value; in-depth questioning, and you’re bound to have yourself a tough time of it. I do agree that most heist films (even the best ones) try and wing it to a certain extent when it comes to the intricate and realistic presentation of the setup, but the list of cons in Ocean’s 8 makes it appear too easy to be taken even half-seriously; to fool Cartier is hard enough, but to breach the Met Gala security system without so much as a hitch sounds too good to be true. Rihanna’s character, Nine Ball, is supposed to be an expert hacker, but the singer’s acting chops just don’t cut it in the role, making her look quite unconvincing and awkward. The writing isn’t good enough for the talent of Bullock or Blanchett, either. It is perhaps only Helena Bonham Carter’s quirky portrayal of a has-been Irish fashion designer that is worth mentioning. Ocean’s 8 is not a dreadful film, though. It may not have ample moments of laughter or brilliance, but that does not make it altogether unwatchable. One or two interesting cameos, and an odd moment here or there capable of making you break into a smile, can often be enough to sit through an entire film.
Debbie Ocean (the late Danny Ocean’s thieving sister) fools the parole board into letting her out of prison, stating that she wants to live a normal life away from the rigours of her criminal past. As soon as she is released, she touches base with her former partner, Lou. Debbie convinces Lou to join her in an elaborate plan of lifting a $150 million Cartier diamond necklace and replacing it with a fake. The only problem is that the jewels are no longer available for public consumption, being locked away in a highly secure underground safe of the company’s. Debbie and Lou enlist the help of a disgraced fashion designer by the name of Rose.
Rose is assigned the task of getting air-headed celebrity, Daphne Kluger, to wear the jewels to the famed Met Gala. Initially reluctant, Cartier relents to Rose’s argument that the famous jewels would gain much-needed publicity if a famous celebrity like Daphne were to wear them to a grand event such as the ball. Debbie contacts her friends Amita (a jeweller) and Tammy (a mother and former profiteer) to join the high-risk, high-reward plan, while Lou ropes in hacker, Nine Ball, and professional pickpocket, Constance. What is unknown to everyone at this stage is that Debbie has an inside stake in all of this: to exact revenge on an art dealer ex who framed her many years ago.
If you go in with little or no expectations, you may well come out feeling that Ocean’s 8 wasn’t all that bad. But if you’re a big fan of Ocean’s Eleven and Steven Soderbergh’s brand of unique filmmaking, you’re setting yourself up for a big disappointment. The spin-off may lack some of the panache of the previous parts, with the writing and humour being average, at best, but the large star cast of women and some half-decent cameos ensure that there’s no harm in giving it a go, provided it’s only for the one time.