Ocean's 8 (2018) (Review)

This summer, it takes the work of eight women to pull off what eleven, twelve and thirteen men did in the original Ocean's trilogy helmed by Steven Soderbergh. Ocean's 8 is the all-female spin-off to that George Clooney and Brad Pitt-leading saga, which sees the likes of Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett and Anne Hathaway attempt to make away with a necklace that would ensure that they never have to work another day in their lives.

Debbie Ocean (Bullock) spent the five years, eight months and twelve days in which she was incarcerated planning an elaborate heist targeting the Met Gala and a certain necklace worn on the neck of dim-witted and snobby actress Daphne Kluger (Hathaway). Upon her release, she assembles a team, including once partner-in-crime Lou (Blanchett), to help execute her audacious plan - one that will make them all very, very rich. Rounding out the impressive ensemble, directed by The Hunger Games' Gary Ross, are Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, Rihanna and Helena Bonham Carter.

From start to finish, Ocean's 8 is a whole heap of fun. As someone impressed by 11, if a little indifferent to 12 and 13, this spin-off is a much-needed shot of adrenaline for the series, one where the women are in charge and impress with their suave swagger and sharp skills at every opportunity. With the key ingredient being the ensemble, the film pieces together a flavourful cast, each afforded an opportunity to shine and prove their worth and position within the team.

Bullock leads from the front with a captivating and confident turn, excellently supported by Blanchett's magnetic Lou: the pair form an effervescent chemistry that charms and delight, with a sense of subterfuge that will hopefully be explored in the franchises' future. Hathaway walks away as the film's scene-stealer, with a smart and stellar performance that riffs off her terribly unfair media portrayal. There's strong work from the secondary players too; Sarah Paulson is reliably great as Tammy; Bonham Carter is as eclectic as we have come to expect; and Rihanna is a great presence, oozing with her own brand of bravado. Kaling is as naturally lovely as ever but the script doesn't always capitalise on that, while I personally found Awkwafina a little grating at times. As a unit, they're terrific though and the dynamic in the team is defined not by catfights and conflict but allegiance and empowerment which I really, really admired and appreciated.

It's during the main heist in the second act that the film works most effectively. Sure, it's a little formulaic at times narratively, sometimes defined by coincidences and circumstance - but the execution is relentlessly fun and exudes energy, zipping along in a very enjoyable manner. It's slick, stylish and flashy and when we at the Met, it flows fantastically well. It sits with a smirk on its face and it deserves to, weaving confidently through the set piece, complete with terrific production and costume design, in a wholly enjoyable and coherent manner. I found myself beaming, with a smile plastered on my face, as these women con their way to wealth and luxury. While the end destination might be a bit predictable, the journey is certainly fulfilling enough for this to be recommended.

While the crowning achievement is the heist itself, it's fun and extremely gratifying for almost all of its 110-minute runtime. It only begins to falter directly after the heist, where a subplot involving James Corden needlessly begins. When it needs to be hurtling towards a conclusion, Ocean's 8 is only just introducing an additional element which sends the pacing completely off course; it hinders the momentum when it should be at its most palpable. It's a disappointingly rocky final third, save for the fantastic female ensemble, who help alleviate James Corden essentially playing himself and the pacing's inconsistencies and bizarre structure.

Gary Ross, whose direction of the first The Hunger Games remains my biggest bugbear of the entire franchise, does a solid job here bringing the heist to life. It perhaps lacks the flair and visual panache of the original trilogy but Ross uses the template effectively, utilising a few of the quirks and transitions into his spin-off to great effect; it is recognisable to the Ocean's franchise without being chained to its principles. Co-writing the script with Susan Ekins, the pair manage to infuse some smart comments on celebrity culture, media portrayals and, of course, feminism, giving it some further depth beyond the more crowd-pleasing thrills of the flick. Daniel Pemberton's score is full of life, with tonnes of energy and vivacity that helps ensure the tone remains light, frothy and fizzy every step of the way.

Ocean's 8 is every bit as enjoyable, entertaining and fun as you hoped it would be, and while the narrative itself could do with a little more originality, I found a smile plastered on my face from beginning to end. The ensemble cast is utterly terrific and formidable with their charm, led outstandingly by Bullock and Blanchett, with Hathaway the certified scene-stealer. Its confidence is infectious and it swaggers along in a fabulously crowd-pleasing fashion; while it needs higher stakes to intensify the suspense, it's a glamorous, well-executed romp that, despite its franchise roots, feels like a breezy breath of fresh air. I had an absolute blast with Ocean's 8 - and I find it difficult to imagine anyone who wouldn't.


Summary: It would take Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett and co less than seven seconds to convince me to join their elaborate jewellery heist at the Met Gala, which just begins to describe how much of a blast Ocean's 8 is, an entertaining and glamorous romp that thrives on the back of its outstanding female ensemble.