2018 | DIR. GARY ROSS | REVIEW BY GLENN COCHRANE.
The film opens up in identical fashion to Ocean's Eleven, with Danny's younger sister Debbie (Sandra Bullock) dressed in orange prison garb and facing a parole hearing. She sweet talks her way out the door and back into her life of crime, and within the blink of an eye she assembles a team of 7 skilled women to pull off the biggest jewellery heist in history. Along the way we are treated to occasional cameos from past players, as well as a who's who of Hollywood talent.
The word serviceable was coined for films like this, and with a ridiculously flaccid plot, the film's success rests squarely on the shoulders of its cast. It is by no means a great movie, but it is a superior one to the previous two entries, and with confident performances from all of the women – notably Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett and Helena Bonham Carter – it feels much closer to a rightful sequel than either Twelve or Thirteen did. And for that I am grateful.
Original director Steven Soderbergh stepped down for this latest entry, making room for Gary Ross (Pleasantville, The Hunger Games, Seabiscuit) and with that switch comes a more polished product, boasting a more frivolous attitude. The all-star male cast of the earlier films has been replaced with an equally lavish line-up of actresses in addition to Bullock, Blanchett and Bonham Carter. They include Anne Hathaway, Sarah Paulson, Rhianna, Awkwafina and Mindy Kaling. This incredible casting leaves little room for naysayers and armchair critics who feel that the “female angle” is stupid, and by the time the end credits roll the whole controversy surrounding the gender-reversal is reduced to piss in bathwater.
The film beams with confidence from all directions. The women conquer the screen with attitude and tenaciousness, while Ross's direction makes no apologies. It fronts its critics head-on and does its darnedest to set itself apart... and perhaps this is its Achilles' heel. So much energy is put into creating confident and interesting characters that very little effort was put into crafting a decent plot. The heist itself is simple enough, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. Without time for substantial character development (fair enough) we have to take it on face value that these women are highly skilled criminals... We are given very little to support this, despite them utilising far-fetched and highly technical gadgets and a lap top. And so with a “trust us” attitude, the film relies on the audiences' suspension of disbelief, more so than the first film did.
The highlights of OCEAN'S 8 are the snappy editing, accompanied by an infectious soundtrack, and a surprisingly restrained performance from James Corden as an unshakeable insurance investigator. His time on camera brought balance to an otherwise laborious turn of events, and with those amazing women getting up to all kinds of mischief, the movie makes its shortcomings easy to overlook.
Far be it from perfect, but far be it from bad. OCEAN'S 8 may not be necessary, but it is certainly the best of the sequels. It embodies the spirit of Soderbergh's films and carries the legacy forward nicely. And despite it being – more or less – a retread of the first story - I was able to ignore most of its flaws nevertheless and enjoyed what it had to offer. It's a fun movie, no doubt about it.