Ocean’s 8, directed by Gary Ross, is a the fourth film in the modern Ocean’s heist film franchise, and the first with an all-female cast of criminals. Inspired by her late brother Danny, Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) assembles a team of multi-talented women to pull off a jewellery heist at the New York Met Gala.
Debbie is the first character we’re introduced to, masterfully manipulating the parole board to secure her release after five years in prison. I’m hooked on Debbie right away; she’s a determined, mischievous genius who will take what she wants, laws be damned, and I can’t wait for the ruckus she’s going to cause on the outside.
Upon her release, Debbie reconnects with her long-time partner-in-crime, Lou (Cate Blanchett). The on-screen chemistry between Debbie and Lou is fantastic. They know each other inside out, with the kind of close friendship where they are starkly honest and tease each other with no love lost. They adore each other, and they’ve been through some shit together to create this unbreakable bond. Adding to the satisfaction of watching a beautiful on-screen friendship, it’s refreshing to watch a film where the main two women are partners rather than rivals.
Once reunited, Debbie and Lou get to work recruiting their perfect heist team; fashion designer Rose (Helena Bonham-Carter), hacker Nine Ball (Rihanna), stay-at-home mum Tammy (Sarah Paulson), con artist Constance (Awkwafina) and jewellery maker Amita (Mindy Kaling). Their target: a $150 million diamond Cartier necklace on loan to celebrity Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway). Although there’s little room for character development with an ensemble cast, they’re entertaining to watch as a team and play their individual parts well. I’m particularly drawn to Bonham-Carter’s portrayal of the eccentric, anxiety-ridden Irish fashion designer slipping into irrelevancy and Hathaway’s spot-on, spoilt prima donna. My only reservation is with Rihanna’s pot-smoking, Rastafarian character Nine Ball, which feels like it’s bordering on racist caricature.
The writers address the heist team being all-female only once, with a satisfying little wink to the audience during the team selection scene. Lou suggests recruiting a man and Debbie delivers what is probably my favourite line in the whole film; “A ‘him’ gets noticed, a ‘her’ gets ignored, and for once we want to be ignored.” I’m relieved the writers only address the team’s gender briefly. I was afraid it could be made a recurring, patronising gimmick (omg, guess what guys… they’re LADIES!) – as if they are pulling off a heist despite their gender. But thankfully that’s not the case; the characters are bomb-ass, professional cons and their gender doesn’t matter.
On top of the already star-studded main cast, Ocean’s 8 is packed with cameos. A long list of celebs including Heidi Klum and Kim Kardashian play themselves attending the Met Gala, while others have character cameos. I’m not sold on doing both in the same film. Self-cameos suggest the plot happens in our world, while character cameos seem to contradict that, so Ocean’s 8 plays out in an in-between land where Serena Williams exists but James Corden doesn’t. But perhaps I’m irked because James Corden doesn’t really play a character; he is just himself by a different name, working as an insurance investigator rather than a comedian.
With the heist being set at the Met Gala, it’s reasonable to expect a parade of outrageous costumes that the A-list party is famous for in the real world. I was disappointed that the costume styling ended up more in line with Hollywood glam than WTF glam. Maybe the costume budget was drained from hiring such a huge, high-profile cast.
Like any good heist film, the story has a riveting series of twists and turns as the crims try to outwit every obstacle and security measure. It never goes seamlessly to plan, but unfortunately the curve balls in Ocean’s 8 were far too easily solved for my liking. Part of the fun of heist films is watching the crooks think on their feet to resolve impossible situations, and the strife was lacking in this one. Call me a sadist, but I want the characters to struggle – it makes the resolution all the more satisfying.
Despite some flaws, Ocean’s 8 is a consistently fun watch and a worthy addition to the Ocean’s franchise. Go see it for an ideal night out with your heist team, or if you need some inspiration to steal from the cinema’s overpriced candy bar.