The estranged sister of Danny Ocean, Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock), is paroled from jail and instantly goes back to her larcenous ways. Her stint in the slammer has given her time to plan the ultimate job; to lift a premium piece of diamond jewellery off the neck of a vacuous starlet (Anne Hathaway). Gathering together an all-female crew due to Debbie’s last con being wrecked by her ex-boyfriend, she arranges to heist the necklace from under the noses of the Met Gala security.
Ocean’s 8 demonstrates how to spin off a franchise when both the director and cast have decided to call it a day. Having a soft reboot with an entirely different crew, and doing something different with that crew, seems like as sound a concept as any. Also given the interest that this and other fellow female comedies have garnered, it really does feel like an idea that is just waiting for the right combination of talent, director, and script to crack it.
Ocean’s 8 isn’t it.
The classic heist film lives and dies by The Job and the fallout caused by the heist, normally with an unexpected twist at the end as the film lets the audience in on another level of misdirection. Ocean’s 8 does not waiver from this tried and true template that has served the Ocean series of films so well. The Job is certainly one of the highlights of the film, picking up the pace from the slower introduction and set up sequences. It is slickly executed, both stylistically and cinematically.
Which may be the problem with Ocean’s 8. It is so slick, so obviously produced, that it is just a little soulless. It has this great cast of actors, and they really seem to have next to nothing to work with, just going through the motions to execute the next part of the plan. There also seems to be a distinct lack of conflict and tension in the script, as you never get the sense that the crew is ever in any real danger, or encounter any significant setbacks.
It’s a shame as there is certainly something here. The cast work well off each other, having that spark and chemistry in their interactions. Bullock is an interesting leader and “(wo)man with the plan”, carrying over the charisma and larceny that is obviously part of the Oceans’ genetic makeup. Rihanna is great as the low key hacker Nine Ball, bringing a combination of sarcastic style and coolness to every line of dialogue she has. Helena Bonham Carter brings her trademark theatrical flightiness down a notch, and is actually rewarded for this bringing life to the designer out of her depth, and trying to avoid prison. However the standout is certainly Hathaway, who reveals her good humour and nature, by playing a cliched version of an A-grade actress, and just really leaning into it to make it joyous and funny.
Ultimately Ocean’s 8 feels more like a proof of concept rather than a great film. Here is this phenomenal cast, and a concept that will interest audiences. With the right script and execution it could be something inspiring to set the screen alight… but this ain’t the one. Ocean’s 8 is competent and has its moments due to the amazing ensemble cast, but its lack of tension and stakes leaves it flat. To paraphrase, this one doesn’t go to eleven.