The franchise continues with a new all-star female cast, an entertaining heist, and more depth than any other installment in the series.
The slick and sophisticated world of ultra-complicated criminality continues to expand in Ocean’s 8, a satisfying spin-off of the hit Ocean’s 11 franchise with an all-star cast of amazing women, including Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Rihanna, Mindy Kaling, Awkwafina and Sarah Paulson.
It’s as impressive an all-star lineup as any heist movie ever had, and just like all the other entries in the Ocean’s franchise, a big part of the appeal is just watching these stars hang out together, plotting the heist and commiserating about their problems. Ocean’s 8 makes great use of the entire cast’s talents, giving everyone laugh-out-loud and victorious moments as they scheme to steal the world’s most valuable diamond necklace from the prestigious Met Gala in New York City.
Sandra Bullock stars as Debbie Ocean, the sister of Danny Ocean (played in the previous films by George Clooney). She’s spent the last few years in prison, plotting an elaborate robbery that will require seven – yes, seven – highly skilled thieves to pull off correctly. She reunites with her old partner, Lou (Blanchett), and assembles a small army of jewelry experts, fashion designers, sleight of hand artists, computer hackers and single-mom highway robbers to infiltrate the exclusive publicity event and manipulate the egotistical superstar Daphne Kluger (Hathaway) into being their unwitting stooge.
Like the other Ocean’s movies, Ocean’s 8 is stylish and appealing, but exceptionally low on stakes. No one’s life is in serious danger, and just before the heist begins, Debbie even goes out of her way to tell the rest of the team that prison isn’t nearly as bad as advertised. And of course, this isn’t the kind of crime movie where all the criminals turn on each other and it ends in a violent bloodbath. The audience knows early on that everything’s going to turn out fine, making Ocean’s 8 – again, just like all the Ocean’s movies – less suspenseful than many other heist films.
But that isn’t a bug, it’s a feature. The Ocean’s movies aren’t so much about the heists as they are about making the impossible look easy. Steven Soderbergh’s movies used that breezy charm for light escapism, and that was effective enough for light entertainment. Gary Ross’s film transforms that confidence into something inspirational. Taking the franchise away from the original proprietors who treated it like a lark, and giving it, instead, to female actors who don’t typically get these types of roles has undeniable significance that the characters themselves acknowledge.
“Somewhere out there is an eight-year-old girl lying in bed, dreaming of being a criminal,” Debbie Ocean tells her team. “Let’s do this for her.” And so they do. The cast and crew of Ocean’s 8 – in the film and behind he cameras – pull off an impressively entertaining heist, with all the reversals and humor and prestige we’ve come to expect from this franchise, along with additional layers that make the film truly distinctive.
Setting the heist at the Met Gala isn’t a coincidence: Ocean’s 8 also delivers sharp commentary about celebrity culture. The crew manipulates gossip columns for their own personal gain, commiserates about the scathing reviews that hurt one of their troupe’s feelings, and respond with disgust when they are mistaken for – shudder – journalists. Ocean’s 8 gives its characters the power to challenge, subvert and take total advantage of expectations, and come out victorious on the other end. And it’s that kind of thoughtfulness that separates Ocean’s from other heist movies, and elevates it above the usual summer entertainment pabulum.