Friday, June 8, 2018

Ocean's 8 - Review

In a Hollywood that is increasingly aware of its gender inequities, it seems perfectly timed to bring back an ensemble driven franchise primed to be cast with a slew of top notch actresses. The Ocean’s franchise has never groundbreaking, but the stylized filmmaking of Steven Soderbergh elevated it tremendously as well as the stellar cast of actors. This go around, the new direction can’t quite carry that same weight, leaving the actresses to do much of the heavy lifting. Fortunately, for franchise’s sake, they are exceedingly up to the task. 

Five years, eight months, 12 days and counting -- that's how long Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) has been devising the biggest heist of her life. She knows what it's going to take -- a team of the best people in the field, starting with her partner-in-crime Lou Miller (Cate Blanchett). Together, they recruit a crew of specialists, including jeweler Amita (Mindy Kaling), street con Constance (Awkwafina), suburban mom Tammy (Sarah Paulson), hacker Nine Ball (Rihanna), and fashion designer Rose (Helena Bonham Carter). Their target -- a necklace that's worth more than $150 million.

n terms of plot, everything plays out in a fairly typical manner, hitting beats and points that audiences have come to expect of heist films. A slightly different setting and score allows the film to craft a unique robbery, if not one that’s lacking in huge risk or danger with the lack of any sort of antagonist outside of the difficulty of the theft. Following a similar structure to 2001’s Ocean’s Eleven, Ocean’s 8 takes a good chunk of 110-minute runtime to introduce each and every unique character for the particular job at hand. While their personalities are vastly different, the film leaves little room for character development, opting to focus on the minute details of the heist instead.

Despite lacking any sort of character depth, a handful of performances still stick out amongst the ensemble. Sandra Bullock as Debbie Ocean, ironically enough, does a fantastic job of filling her fictional brother’s shoes, bringing the charisma and charm needed for the leader of any ragtag group of criminals. Combine that with some excellent chemistry with her partner in crime Cate Blanchett and the head of this new band of thieves is fairly set. Unfortunately, outside of a ton of great interactions with Bullock, Blanchett is not provided a ton to work with. She makes the best with what she has and manages to produce something of a character, even if it just getting by on her ability as an actress. Of all the members of this ensemble cast, that share just remarkable chemistry from top to bottom, the only one to get anything worthwhile to work with is Anne Hathaway. Hathaway is clearly having a blast portraying this desperate for attention and pampered actress, a somewhat strange meta-performance that manages to work. 

As stated before, the heist itself is lacking something. While undoubtedly difficult to pull off, the film doesn’t manage to portray an appropriate sense of tension or suspense when said heist is occurring. Director Gary Ross still manages to make it somewhat exciting through the same visual techniques of Steven Soderbergh’s trilogy, utilizing a whirlwind of fast paced filmmaking and clever edits to match the tone. And though the crime side of the film may not be up to par, the comedy is certainly there to make up for it. The immeasurable levels of chemistry between the crew of women allows for a great rapport with comedic timing that makes the whole venture worthwhile just to see these actresses on screen together.

Overall, Ocean’s 8 isn’t a perfect heist film, in fact the core premise falls below a handful of the other entries in the franchise, but the sense of camaraderie amongst the characters and the fun that subsequently provides is worth the price of admission alone. What started as a reboot that seemingly cashed in on the gender-flipped premise became a worthy entry to a fun franchise, one that, with any luck, will continue to be the excuse for big stars to get together for the audience’s amusement. 

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