Ocean’s 8 (2018) Review
A FUN SPIRITUAL SUCESSOR
Back in 2001, director Steven Soderbergh released Ocean’s 11, a remake of the classic heist film of the same name from the 1960. Much like that original film, Soderbergh’s Ocean’s 11 is the title character of Danny Ocean assemble a team (each with their own unique abilities) to pull off a heist from a Las Vegas casino. While the original movie had the cast of famed celebrities of its time (i.e. Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., etc.) this remake of Ocean’s 11 enlisted the acting talents of several prominent and famous actors of current Hollywood, including George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts, Andy Garcia, and several others. The film was met with positive reviews from both fans and critics alike and did make its money back (and then some) at the box office, scoring roughly $450 million against its $85 million production budget. Given the success of Ocean’s 11, Hollywood (being Hollywood) decided to green light two sequels to the franchise, creating Ocean’s 12 in 2004 and Ocean’s 13 in 2007, with Steven Soderbergh returning to direct both films. However, despite with the main cast returning (even adding actress Catherine Zeta-Jones in the 2004 sequel), Ocean’s 12 was okay; considered to the weakest entry in the trilogy due to its slow start and overly complexed plot. That being said, the trilogy concluded on a more satisfying note with 2007’s Ocean’s 13, which added actor Al Pacino as the team’s main antagonist. Now, with a time gap of eleven years, it’s time to return to Ocean’s heist world as Warner Bros. Pictures and director Gary Ross present the film Ocean’s 8. Does this spiritual successor sequel find its “Ocean” heist groove within its female cast or is it just simply rehashed idea from the recycled product from recent Hollywood?
After residing in prison for five years, Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock), sister to the late Danny Ocean (George Clooney), returns to New York City and reconnects with her close friend / partner-in-crime Lou (Cate Blanchett). However, though Debbie put on a good performance of her parole hearing (promising to live the simple and clean lifestyle), she immediately returns to a life of crime, setting her sights on robbing one of the most secure and exclusive events in the Big Apple. In order to pull of the job that she’s been planning for years, Debbie and Lou we’ll have to assemble a team for aspect of this complicated heist to work. In addition to Lou’s experiences, Debbie enlists the washed-out fashion designer Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter), her old associate Tammy (Sarah Paulson), jewelry maker Amita (Mindy Kaling), hacker savant Nine Ball (Rihanna), and local pick-pocketer Constance (Awkwafina). Together, the ladies plan to steal a priceless multi-million dollar necklace off of celebrity Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway), who will be attending the annual Met Gala in New York City. To make matters more complicated for the group, the necklaces come from world-renowned jeweler Cartier, who insists on extra insurance and security in lieu of “loan” it out for the event. Plus, Debbie’s ex-lover / boyfriend Claude Becker (Richard Armitage) adds another layer to the heist that could put the whole job in jeopardy. Even with all the pieces in place and the assemblage of a highly-skilled individuals, it remains to be unseen if Debbie and her team will be able to pull the heist off and walk away scot-free.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
Heist films are sub-genre of movies that I like. I mean movies like Hell or High Water, The Town, The Italian Job, Baby Driver, Fast Five, and even Inception (yes, even though that’s a bit more fantastical than the rest) are the stuff that make up my personal viewing experience of heist movies. Of course, the most famous one of all would have to be Soderbergh’s Ocean trilogy. Yes, I do know of the original 1960 Ocean’s 11 film (and liked it), but I found that 2001’s version to be a fun and entertainment remake, utilizing the popular actors and actresses of current Hollywood to the film’s advantage and just being an exciting / lighthearted motion picture piece. As for Ocean’s 12, well, I thought it was okay. Yes, many of the characters returned and still had that sort of heist comedy fun (like the first one had), but the movie was my least favorite of the trilogy. Maybe because it had a slow start and less-interesting storyline to follow, but it just didn’t have that exact same entertainment value as did Ocean’s 11. To me, it sort of feel into that “sequel” category that really doesn’t live up to its expectations. Ocean’s 13, on the other hand, brought back the same feeling of Ocean’s 11 back to the proceedings, feeling very much like the first film (mostly helped with the story being brought back to robbing a Las Vegas casino). To that end, Ocean’s 13 closes the trilogy on a very positive and satisfying note, ending the comedy heist franchises (of which was populated with recognizable / A-list celebrities), proving that a remake series can be just as joyful and amusing as it was intended.
Flash forward eleven years from Ocean’s 13’s theatrically release and now we have Ocean’s 8, the first semi-sequel / spiritual successor to Soderbergh’s Ocean’s trilogy. Personally, I wasn’t really expecting another Ocean’s movie, especially after the conclusion to Ocean’s 13 sort of closed out the franchise in a trilogy fashion. Plus, I had a feeling that many of the film’s actors (more so the A-lister ones) wanted to do other projects. That being said, I was a bit surprise to hear that they (the people at Warner Bros. Pictures) were gonna do a semi-sequel / spin-off film to the Ocean’s trilogy with an all-female cast. To be quite honest, I wasn’t really quite taken by the film’s marketing campaign as I sort felt that this movie was unnecessary. Yes, I loved the cast (Bullock, Blanchett, Carter, etc.) and I do like Soderbergh’s Ocean’s trilogy, but I just felt that this movie was gonna be just rehash (more of a knock-off than a spin-off). I mean this wouldn’t be the first time that Hollywood has recycled old ideas and try to repurpose them for a new viewing audience. Still, I was slightly intrigued to see it, so…guess what…I did at a special screening of the movie at 4pm the night before. So, what did I think of it? Actually, I was kind of surprised that I liked it. Despite having some problems here and there, Ocean’s 8 is fun spiritual successor to Soderbergh’s Ocean’s movies that shines with its all-female cast ensemble. The movie doesn’t reinvent the “heist” wheel, but it plays its strength…and that’s all that matters.
Ocean’s 8 is directed by Gary Ross, whose previous directorial projects include such films as Seabiscuit, Free State of Jones, and The Hunger Games. Given the attraction and allure that the Ocean movies have had on the industry, its interesting to see Ross (who hasn’t really hasn’t done much in the way of heist and comedy endeavors) ultimately takes an approach to doing his version of an Ocean’s film. To be honest, he stays within the parameters set by Soderbergh’s trilogy and, while that might seem like a bit of a “copycat” move for some, the decision works with Ocean’s 8 rather than against it. Collectively (from onset to conclusion), Ocean’s 8 is very much so a continuation of the franchise, adopting the same characteristic and overall tone of its predecessors. In truth, the Ocean movies were more of the “PG” rating of heist movies rather than the more adult-oriented R-rated ones (i.e. backstabbing, violence, and the like). Thus, Ocean’s 8 gives much credit to how Soderbergh setup the franchise (familiar plot beats, comedic charm, and stellar cast of famous actors / actresses), but Ross seems relish in that notion, keeping things in-line and really doesn’t shake up the “status quo” of the franchise, which (again) is a good thing that plays to the film’s strength. That’s not to say that the movie is a complete rip-off as Ross, who also co-wrote the film’s screenplay along with Olivia Milch, seems to give his film its not swagger, most notably with its all-female cast of main characters that make of the protagonist “team” of the feature as well as offering a fresh new setting (New York City) and a new heist. Personally, Ocean’s 8 feels very much like an extension of what has come before, offering a new spin on the old, updating the context / preferences (i.e. the team using more modern technology and methods). I wasn’t expecting any radical changes to the formula of the franchise, so it was actually quite good to get back into the “ocean rhythm” of assembling many of the familiar beats. In short, if you liked Soderbergh’s Ocean’s trilogy, you’ll like Ross’s Ocean’s 8.
On a technical and filmmaking level, Ocean’s 8 is a solid movie, presenting enough glitz and glamour that the other Ocean movies were capable of showcasing. With the sort of “change” of scenery to the Big Apple, Ross and his team utilize the high-life / urban flow of New York City to their advantage, displaying the hustle and bustle of the city as well as the intricate high fashion world. Thus, I have to say that the movie’s costume design by Sarah Edwards are excellent and very detailed from men’s attire to the lavishing dresses / outfits that many of the women (both major, minor, and background characters) display on-screen. Additionally, the cinematography work by Eigil Bryld are commendable, contributing some nice camera angles throughout the film as well as using some creative moments of varying light effects. Other noteworthy technical achievements include the film’s editing by Juliette Welfing (the intercutting of various shots and slick and smooth), set decorations by Rena DeAngelo, and production designs by Alex DiGerlando. Lastly, the film’s musical score, which was composed by Daniel Pemberton, is solid, using a sort of musical cues and ideas from Ocean’s trilogy composer David Holmes, but still has enough to make it his own; adding that extra layer to making the film that much more appeasing to both the ears and eyes of watching the feature.
Despite its fun premise, Ocean’s 8 does face a few problems along the way from reaching cinematic greatness. The first and foremost problem I felt with the movie is that it never reaches the same caliber level that other Ocean’s film did. Well, maybe it was better than Ocean’s 12 (I just think that film is like the “black sheep” of the franchise), but Ocean’s 11 and 13 were much more engaging than Ocean’s 8 was. Perhaps the reason for that is the simple fact that Ocean’s 8 didn’t really need to be made. I mean Soderbergh did stretch out the narrative to create two sequels to his original film and sort of close out the tale of Danny Ocean and the rest of his team in a satisfying way. Thus, it really begs the question as to why a new spin-off entry is necessary. I mean…I get that female actresses should be given the chance to shine and have their own films and / or franchises to build upon, especially given the circumstances that have risen in today’s Hollywood world surrounding actresses and equally pay (and I support that change in Hollywood), but I feel that it would’ve been slightly better if the movie (Ocean’s 8 storyline) was given a chance to stand away from the Ocean’s trilogy universe. Yes, the film connects the dots and makes a few nods to past entries, thus making the feature feel “connected” to the large “Ocean’s” world, but it just doesn’t seem to fully allow its chance have this new movie stand on its own two feet firmly; resting upon the ideas and pathos heist motifs of its predecessor films. This, of course, makes Ocean’s 8 not as clever as it thinks it is or what could’ve been if it was a standalone solo feature, breeding a certain touch familiarity (and predictability) throughout most of the film’s runtime. That being said, given the fact that this movie was suppose to be spin-off film (set within the same universe as the other Ocean’s movies), it didn’t bother me as much as I pretty much expected it to be like it right from the get-go. Still, I just wish that the movie was stronger in distancing itself from its other films (again, I agree that it should’ve been set as a non-Ocean’s feature).
The other major complaint I had about this film was the third act. After reaching the movie’s climax crescendo piece, the film continues with a sort of aftermath piece that seems to overstay its welcome. Of course, it’s a vital piece to closing out the movie’s narrative plot, but just seems a bit out-of-place considering the film completed its climax portion of the heist. This was exactly what happened during Steven Soderbergh’s 2017 heist film Logan Lucky, where the aftermath of the actual heist feels superfluous and elongated. Heck, both Logan Lucky and Ocean’s 8 movie even introduces a new character very late in the game (during this point of the feature’s third act) with both coming up a bit short. Perhaps if Ross decided to intercut this aftermath piece into the rest of the film (maybe somewhere in the middle), the movie could’ve been more impactful and have a better third act, but (as it stands) Ocean’s 8 final stretch in the third act seem unnecessary and doesn’t know where to end, continuing the narrative after the film’s climax moment has ended.
With all that being said, the film’s best (and strongest) strength would have to be the fantastic female cast that were selected to be a part of Ocean’s 8 all-female protagonist team. Leading the charge of the movie would definitely have to be actresses Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett, respectfully playing the roles of Debbie Ocean and Loue (Debbie’s old friend). Bullock, known for her roles in The Heat, Gravity, and The Blind Side, seems adept in playing such a role, finding a natural groovy for Debbie in how she forms her team, executing her plans, and handles several sticky situations. Her character depth in the movie, however, is the most uninteresting (i.e. trying to pull off a heist that her late brother Danny never approved of). That being said, Clooney’s charm and bravado in his portrayal of Danny Ocean in the other films were more appealing and interesting than the story arc that his character followed. Thus, Bullock’s Debbie falls into the same pattern. Again, it’s sort of expected, but Bullock sure does bring her charisma to the movie’s proceedings and certainly does act the part as an Ocean. All in all, Bullock’s performance as Debbie Ocean is solid.
Likewise, Blanchett, known for her roles in The Lord of the Rings trilogy / The Hobbit trilogy as well as Thor: Ragnarok and Elizabeth, finds her groove in the more confident role of Lou, who first takes a shine to Deb’s heist plan. Blanchett’s acting talents are always superb and she seems to relish the chance to do a fun heist feature (like an Ocean’s movie) and does succeed in making Debbie a good accomplice / second in-command to Debbie’s operations. To be honest, both Bullock’s Deb and Blanchett’s Lou are like the female versions to what the previous Ocean films had with George Clooney’s Danny and Brad Pitt’s Rusty…if you think about it. Behind Bullock and Blanchett, actress Anne Hathaway, known for her roles in The Devil Wears Prada, The Princess Diaries, and The Dark Knight Rises follows right behind them as the group’s sort of target “mark” of the heist…. famed celebrity Daphne Kluger. While Bullock and Blanchett are great foils for each other and are the big headliners of the feature (in both reality and in the fictional world of the movie), it’s actually Hathaway’s performance of that really steals the show in Ocean’s 8, displaying the right amount comedic charm and emotional depth towards her multi-façade plights of her character.
The rest of the team that make up Debbie team are in more of supporting roles (much like how Danny’s Ocean’s team was in the other films), but are still given enough time to display their unique abilities and skills to make them memorable in the grand scheme of the main heist objective. This includes actress Helen Bonham Carter (Les Miserable and Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street) as Rose Weil, music artist / actress Rihanna (Battleship and Home) as Nine Ball, actress Mindy Kaling (A Wrinkle in Time and Inside Out) as Amita, actress Sarah Paulson (American Horror Story and American Crime Story) as Tammy, and Awkwafina (Tawk and Crazy Rich Asians) as Constance. Much like Bullock, Blanchett, and Hathaway in the movie, these actresses play to the character’s idiosyncrasies as Ross gives each one their moment in the spotlight to shine in the film. Additionally, all of these leading ladies that make-up of the team seems to be having throughout the film, which contributes to their stellar on-screen presence and chemistry amongst the group.
Rounding out the cast for the movie are actors Richard Armitage (The Hobbit trilogy and Into the Storm) and actor / late night talk show host James Corden (Into the Woods and Peter Rabbit) as Debbie’s ex-lover Claudie Becker and insurance-fraud investigator John Frazier. Armitage’s Becker has a semi-important to the film’s narrative as Debbie former lover, but his character could’ve been given slightly more depth to him. Still, Armitage’s presence and acting talents gives his character of Claude Becker enough “oomph” to make him an important supporting role. As for Corden, he just comes too late in the game. I’ll admit that I love Corden as both actor and late-night talk show host, but, while he does good work (acting-wise) in the movie for his small role, his character of Frazier appearance towards the final stretch of the film (during that elongated part of the third act I mentioned above). Again, this scene should’ve been interweaved earlier on the film (adding a more mysterious as to “what happened?” during the scene of the actual heist, but Corden’s Frazier character just comes a bit “too little, too late; much like how Hilary Swank’s character Agent Sarah Grayson was presented in Logan Lucky.
Lastly, there are a several appearances of past Ocean characters that appear in Ocean’s 8. No, it isn’t Matt Damon’s Linus Caldwell. While Damon did film a scene for the movie and it was confirmed (as a pre-release hype for the film), the scene was ultimately cut for the finishing product and perhaps will ended up as a deleted scene on the film’s home release. That being said, there are several other cameo surprises. Won’t spoil who or what they are, but I was sort of expecting it, which put a smile on my face when I saw it. In short, just keep your eyes open for them when they appear.
Debbie Ocean assembles her all-female team with her eye set on stealing a priceless diamond necklace during the annual Met Gala in NYC in the film Ocean’s 8. Director Gary Ross newest movie sees the return to the world that Soderbergh created back in 2001, carrying a lot of the same charm and bravado to being part of the more celebrated (if not famous) heist franchise of all time in this semi-spin-off feature. Though the film has a since of familiarity from Soderbergh’s Ocean trilogy (which is sort of a given) and how the narrative elongates the film in the third act, the film has a certain air about it that makes it an entertaining and solid endeavor, especially thanks to great performances from its all-female cast (most notably with Bullock, Blanchett, and Hathaway) as well as maintaining its roguish heist attitude, comedic lightheartedness and likeability in accordance to its predecessors (i.e. more of a spin-off than a knock-off). Personally, I liked this movie. I was expecting it to be a bit necessary and less engaging film, but I was pleasantly surprise how much I liked the movie. Yes, there were moments that were just like the other Ocean movies, but it was still a fun and entertaining spin-off film that has its own merits to like. Additionally, I enjoyed Ocean’s 8 better than Soderbergh’s Logan Lucky. Thus, I would give this movie my “recommended” stamp of approval as its easily accessible to watch and has that sort of entertainment “fluff” that it needed to make its viewing experience enjoyable. In short, Ocean’s 8 is a fun spiritual successor….no more, no less, which is what it exactly the movie needs to be.
4.0 Out of 5 (Recommended)
Released On: June 8th, 2018
Reviewed On: June 10th, 2018
Ocean’s 8 is 110 minutes long and is rated PG-13 for language, drug use, and some suggestive content