Movie Review: Ocean’s 8 (Spoiler Free)
Sandra Bullock rounds up the ladies to pull off the mother of all heists. While the plan isn’t the cutest, Ocean’s 8 moves fast, talks a good game, and keeps your eyes where they want them the entire time.
Ocean’s 8 is probably going to polarize, and not for the reason’s you’d probably think. Anyone who likes the style of a good heist movie: slick dialogue, clever camera work, characters that are both suave and sinful; those people are going to have a wicked time with Debbie Ocean and her crew. Those expecting the substance of a good heist movie might have a few bones to pick with Ocean’s 8.
Anyone on the fence about Ocean’s 8 for the reason you WOULD probably think can rest at ease. Fans of Steven Soderbergh‘s crime series will find Gary Ross’ reboot almost too respectful. Ocean’s 8 captures almost all the hallmark’s of the series. In fact, if I had to nitpick (it’s kinda my job), Ocean’s 8 sacrifices a few opportunities to try something novel within the heist genre due to its desire to stay in its older brothers shadow.
Ocean’s 8 (2018)
Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) has just been paroled. Those 5 long years gave her plenty of time to think. Rather than reflect upon the consequences of her actions, Debbie spent that time cooking up the perfect heist. The Met Gala in NYC is the perfect backdrop for Debbie to lift the Toussaint diamonds; a gig that her infamous brother Danny Ocean never dared to pull. To get the job done, she’ll need every no-good, dirty-rotten scoundrel she can find. Luckily her best friend Lou (Cate Blanchett) has just the gals for the gig.
Girls are a Diamond’s Best Friend
The Ocean’s movies are as much about the ensemble as the robbery. The original films put together a who’s who of male acting talent, and Ocean’s 8 does that backwards and in heels. The cast comes together nicely, with characters that are both stereotypical for a heist (the fence, the pickpocket, the hacker, etc) and interesting as people. It even got me on board with Helena Bonham Carter and Mindy Kaling, two actresses I haven’t enjoyed in just about anything I’ve seen them in.
The only gripe I had was there wasn’t enough Cate Blanchett, but I know a certain movie that made that same mistake.
Cute Camera Work
The cinematography in Ocean’s 8 has all the bells and whistles you’d expect. Quick cuts, stylish wipes, and framing that puts your eye where the script wants it. Another aspect of the cinematography is that it knows exactly how to flatter: the camera constantly shows each actress in their best light. Sandra Bullock is almost always presented with her iconic profile, whereas Anne Hathaway always gets the camera fawning over her neckline. It works well for the film’s theme: these “unkwown ladies” are robbing one of the most stylish events in NYC, and the camera work treats every scene like a red carpet.
Wanna Buy a Rolex?
The job itself is a mixed bag. I really enjoyed the setup in Ocean’s 8. This is being presented as a gig that an imprisoned pro worked backwards and forwards in her head over a long time in solitary confiment. The setup pays that off: Debbie’s thought of everything, and watching these ladies put every domino in place was charming.
The payoff, however, tries to get too cute. It wouldn’t be a modern heist movie without twists upon twists. I won’t spoil any of them for you, but Ocean’s 8 commits a cardinal sin: it hides pieces of the puzzle from you. Heist movies are thrillers: you should have the ability to put the pieces together without the film leading you by the nose or withholding information from you. For every time the film has a clever piece subtly added, it has a moment when the audience was purposefully left in the dark. To make the twists work, Ocean’s 8 too often forgoes a Magician’s slight of hand, and rather uses the cinematographers magic wand to conjure up a plot piece.
As such, the film has the swagger of a heist movie, but it feels like a clever knock off. Anyone looking for a tight as a drum caper will find the skin a little too slack.
The other problem area is that some of the tone of the movie feels too safe. This seems to have two reasons. The first is that it’s an “Ocean’s” film, and it’s supposed to be glitzy and slick. This is at odds sometimes with the character work. When the movie first shows off Debbie and Lou’s bona fides as criminals it shows petty criminals. Debbie is a shoplifter and two bit con-woman; Lou makes ends meet watering down liquor. Their hacker (Rihanna) is a hood rat, and their pickpocket (Awkwafina) is found pulling off three card monte. The film doesn’t speak to any of this, and before we know it they’re moving around Cartier’s like big time hustlers. It wouldn’t have taken much time to acknowledge this.
The other is that the film was probably keenly aware of the howling that accompanied the all-female reboot of Ghostbusters. As such, it felt very safe: this film is fun, stylish and breezy. It doesn’t try anything subversive or groundbreaking. I was even remarking to myself how refreshing it was that none of the ladies resort to using their bodies to pull off a con when *boom*, someone gets a mark in the sack just to make one of the twists work. Ocean’s 8 didn’t need to reinvent the wheel, but I would have liked a little more than a few glib lines about how unique an all women’s hustle could be.
Style Over Substance
At the end of the day, the style and acting carried this film for me. It moved at a snappy pace, the cast works well off each other, and there were moments where I laughed out loud. It carries the Ocean’s pedigree and respects the style of the early 2000’s franchise. Unfortunately Ocean’s 8 doesn’t elevate beyond charming, and it has a few missteps that will upset genre aficionados.
Much like most of 2018’s other first salvos of the summer season, Ocean’s 8 is fun but safe. I like the characters, and I really hope they get a chance to branch out when the inevitable sequel gets green lit. It’s a witty and engaging film worth a watch, but it may be more at home in your home. Just keep an eye on the fine China if you invite these ladies in.