Ocean's 8 offers a fun female-fronted summer movie experience as it returns to the world of Ocean's 11, but falls short of elevating the franchise.
Ocean's 8 is a continuation of the franchise launched in 2001 by Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's 11, which was itself a remake of the 1960 film of the same name. Thanks in no small part to the charm of George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon, as well as the clever heist their characters pull off on a Las Vegas casino, Ocean's 11 was successful enough to earn two sequels: Ocean's Twelve and Ocean's Thirteen. Unfortunately, the heist series saw diminishing returns at the box office, and concluded with Ocean's Thirteen in 2007. However, director Gary Ross revives the franchise more than a decade later for an all-female reboot with Ocean's 8, from a script he co-wrote with Olivia Milch. Ocean's 8 offers a fun female-fronted summer movie experience as it returns to the world of Ocean's 11, but falls short of elevating the franchise.
After residing in prison for five years, Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) - the sister of the late Danny Ocean (Clooney) - returns to New York City and reconnects with her old friend Lou (Cate Blanchett). However, though Debbie put on a good performance as a penitent reformed criminal in order to receive parole from prison, she immediately returns to a life of crime - and she sets her sights on robbing one of the most secure and exclusive events in the Big Apple. In order to pull off the job Debbie has been planning for years, she'll have to assemble a team for each aspect of the complicated heist.
In addition to Lou, Debbie brings in the fashion designer Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter), her old associate Tammy (Sarah Paulson), jewelry maker Amita (Mindy Kaling), hacker Nine Ball (Rihanna) and pickpocket Constance (Awkwafina). Together, they plan to steal a million-dollar necklace off celebrity Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway), who will be attending the annual Met Gala in New York City. To make matters more complicated, the necklace comes from world-renowned jeweler Cartier, who insists on extra insurance and security. Plus, Debbie's ex-boyfriend Claude Becker (Richard Armitage) adds another layer to the heist that could put the whole job in jeopardy. Even though Debbie has spent years planning the heist and assembled a highly skilled team, it remains to be seen if she'll be able to pull it off - or if she'll let her own agenda get in the way of millions of dollars' worth of jewels.
Altogether, Ocean's 8 is an entertaining continuation of the Ocean's franchise that adopts the characteristics of its predecessors, but offers plenty of freshness by introducing a new cast, location and heist. Much of the story follows the same basic beats as Ocean's 11 - insofar as the lead character is released from prison, plans a heist, assembles a team and executes the heist. However, the third act of Ocean's 8 diverges from Ocean's 11 enough to provide a surprising new spin on that outline. Still, there is a great deal of Ocean's 8 that echoes Ocean's 11, including a third act twist, Debbie and Lou's dynamic, and the ensemble cast of criminals with a variety of skillsets. Even the music composed by Daniel Pemberton seems to honor the mood of Ocean's 11, helping Ocean's 8 to fit into the tone of the series.
It's clear from Ocean's 8 that Ross and Milch took pains to make sure it fits well into the franchise to which it belongs. However, those connections oscillate between being fun nods to the other films and constraints to which a standalone movie wouldn't have needed to adhere. Arguably, Ocean's 8 would have been stronger as a film on its own, without the restraints of fitting within the franchise. But, the movie uses its connections to the larger Ocean's series so effectively at times that it's difficult to fault Ocean's 8 for attempting to build off what was established in previous movies. Still, Ocean's 8 isn't quite as clever as Ocean's 11, and the comparison is even more stark because the films exist in the same franchise.
With that said, the strength of Ocean's 8 rests in its cast and, undoubtedly because the movie revolves around the Met Gala, its costuming by Sarah Edwards. The costumes work in tandem with the all-star cast to establish each of the main characters as different and entertaining members of the ensemble. Bullock is the most solid - and perhaps uninteresting - member of the ensemble as the anchor for the cast. The actress brings a depth of more potential to Debbie, but the character largely acts as the charmingly superficial center of the film's story. Blanchett's Lou, and her pantsuits, are a bright and fun foil to Debbie. Still, of the ensemble's major players, it's Hathaway's Daphne that steals the show, bringing a surprising amount of comedy and emotional depth to Ocean's 8.
The rest of the cast is rounded out well by Carter, Kaling, Rihanna, Paulson and Awkwafina, who are each given moments to shine, but represent the much less well developed side of the ensemble. Of course, the major twist on the Ocean's 11 formula that Ocean's 8 provides is its all-female cast, seeming to follow the trend established in Hollywood over the last few years. It undoubtedly helps Ocean's 8 breathe fresh new life into the franchise, and allows for a much different kind of caper, one that only women could pull off. Further, the dynamic between all the women in the film's ensemble brings an exceptionally fun twist to this criminal action comedy, something rarely seen in Hollywood.
All in all, Ocean's 8 provides a fun summer moviegoing experience, revisiting one of the most famous heist franchises and offering a new spin on the series' formula. Unfortunately, Ocean's 8 highlights certain weaknesses in that formula, especially when the film doesn't necessarily live up to the movie that kicked off the franchise. Ocean's 8 has just as much charm as Ocean's 11, but fails to deliver a more clever twist to the movie's heist - which was a key aspect of the 2001 movie for many fans. As a result, though Ocean's 8 will be sufficiently entertaining for fans of the Ocean's series, those who go into it hoping for a fun, female-fronted action comedy are more likely to have their expectations met.
Ocean's 8 is now playing in U.S. theaters nationwide. It is 110 minutes long and is raged PG-13 for language, drug use and some suggestive content.
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