Director: Gary Ross
Writer: Gary Ross & Olivia Milch
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway
Genre: Comedy / Thriller
After being released from prison Debbie Ocean (Bullock) assembles together a crew to undertake a daring jewellery heist, something she spent her entire ten years in prison planning for.
While it is certainly very easy to be sceptical about the reasons for the existence of Ocean’s 8 and theorise about the possibly very cynical reasons for this existence, and despite the cynical marketing ploy of its main character being the sibling of George Clooney’s Danny Ocean, it is best to approach Ocean’s 8 as a standalone heist movie and judge it on its own merits. When doing this, a reasonable conclusion would be that its only real merit is its cast and that it is simply a very below average heist movie irrespective of the fact it may be a very cynical spin-off.
There is indeed a real feeling of complacency involved in the whole film and that everyone is having a little too much fun, especially as one of the phrases used in the trailer are ‘having this much is criminal’ and they seem to forget about the audience. Also, the key word there is ‘criminal’, and there seems to be a real lack of acknowledgment for the fact that the audience is expected to side with a protagonist that is a career criminal and has assembled together a group of people to commit a crime.
The script to Ocean’s 8 contains hardly any attempt at genuine character development, but what we do see is that the characters (apart from maybe a couple) seem to already live quite comfortable lives already, so it is not exactly like they need the money. Instead, in order for us to sympathise with the main character we are given a lazily written backstory involving a 2d dimensional nasty male character (Richard Armitage) who got her wrongly imprisoned for 10 years or so, and so now part of her plan for this ‘incredible’ heist is to also get revenge on him. Though she may have been wrongly imprisoned in terms of what she was wrongly convicted of, Debbie Ocean spends a lot of the film bragging about how she often steals things (and indeed in the film’s opening sequence she steals many, many things). So, she actually got what she deserved anyway, but just got caught because she fell in love, well, boohoo!
Maybe I am analysing this film way too much, but this attitude that just because a character who is essentially a career criminal got outconned once and now wants to pull of some ‘amazing’ heist means we should all of a sudden side with her and apparently want her to succeed in once again breaking the law just really sums up the utter complacency and cynicism of all involved in Ocean’s 8 and their utter contempt and disrespect for the good, honest cinema going public.
Director Gary Ross tries his best to polish a turd, but all aerial shots of New York and split screen editing cannot disguise the fact that Ocean’s 8 is a lazily written film that lacks likeable characters and relies way too much on contrivance and convenience, and would be very boring if it wasn’t so frustrating and alienating.
The performances generally cannot be faulted, but then the cast would have been paid a lot of money to be in a film that was not a particular challenge of their acting abilities and probably quite fun to make, so good performances should be expected. Sandra Bullock basically plays Sandra Bullock; slightly smug career criminal but is fine and would be perfectly likeable if given a better script. Meanwhile Anne Hathaway is very good as an extremely vein model/socialite, as is Sarah Paulson as a bored housewife, though their actual characters are over written to the point of spoof stereotype. Predictably Cate Blanchett is the best thing about the film; a film like this is nothing for an actress like her, and she is clearly enjoying herself here and the film suffers even more when she is not around. Awkwafina delivers panache in her role, but again in the little backstory that she is given she is depicted as someone who cheats and steals for a living, but because it apparently looks slightly cool we are expected to side with her. Meanwhile Rhianna is fine in her role as the generic character who can do really clever and extremely narratively convenient things, and the fact she is good with a computer is apparently the only required explanation for how she does some of the things that she does that are vital for the heist to be a success. Helena Bonham overacts way too much as an Irish fashion designer, and then towards the end James Corden turns up as James Corden; insurance investigator. Whether you will find him irritating or funny will basically depend on which of the two opinions you have of him in general.
As the lacklustre plot develops it has some inevitable twists that are announced with incredible smugness, but the fact that they increasingly rely on sheer convenience and an ever-increasing amount of random people doing certain things only makes narrative developments even more ridiculous and alienating, and this all produces a film that feels as equally smug and deluded as it is painfully boring and uninvolving.
The potentially cynical reasons for its existence aside, despite some decent performances from its talented cast, Ocean’s 8 is a lazily written and constructed heist movie that is dull and forgettable.