Directed by Gary Ross
Starring Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Sarah Paulson, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Rihanna, Helena Bonham Carter, Awkwafina
Sandra Bullock leads the all-female cast of the newest caper in the Ocean's Eleven franchise. Though the original trilogy, in and of itself a reboot of the classic 1960's heist flick starring Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, contained a plethora of cinematic fun and pop culture tie-ins to catapult into the early millennium canon of star-studded pics. This new iteration elevates the sometimes-stagnant predecessors by spending more time focused on the heist at hand, instead of searching for tongue-in-cheek references and cameos.
Bullock stars as Debbie Ocean, the sister of the recently-deceased Danny Ocean (George Clooney in the earlier films). Ocean is released from prison after a 5-ish year stint and immediately puts her wit to use on a new plan she's been mastering the entire time she was locked up. To pull off the heist of the century, she'd need a powerhouse group of brains and brawn. Enter the rest of the team. Lou (Cate Blanchett) shares the brains of the mission with Ocean, after powering through the past as partners-in-crime, and potentially partners-in-love, though the film never quite fleshed this aspect out. Amita (Mindy Kaling) is a master jeweler. Tammy (Sarah Paulson) is a planner. Constance (Awkwafina) is a slight-of-hand expert. Nine Ball (Rihanna) is a hacker. And, Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter) is a high-end fashion designer in mounds of debt.
Ocean's plan involves stealing a famous set of jewels from the Cartier collection. With the MET Gala occurring in a matter of weeks, the event would lay way to the perfect stage for the trickiest take of them all: get Rose Weil to design the outfit for the A-list star, Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway), including the need for the diamond necklace. The rest of the team would gain access to the event under different guises, find a way to get access to Kluger and the jewels, replace the jewels with a fake, and make it out without a peep.
Part of the fun in the film is following the team as they piece together the tryst. From the tricks used to get Kluger to pick Weil as her designer, to how the team of characters interact with each other in putting the plan into motion. This is an affective group of actresses with plenty to do. The downfall, however, is that there's almost too much business that some of the characters get lost, or the talents of the actresses get overshadowed. Each member of the team gets a brief moment to shine, but even Bullock and Blanchett, arguably the film's "stars" and whose characters have the most arc, get lost in the shuffle.
Bullock's usual comedic chops have their fair share of screen time, with most of her one-liners landing. The true comedy comes in the surprising form of Hathaway's needle-nosed and self-centered Kluger. She's stuck up and charmless, while still remaining relevant and interesting. Her seeming lack of common sense never slips into over-the-top, instead remaining just stated enough to make her appeal as a star seem in tact. Hathaway's career has taken her to the Oscar stage, but her reputation, for some reason or another, has always been daft. Perhaps here she's choosing to give some clout to that reputation, taking it by the horns and laughing in its face.
James Corden shows up towards the third act with a few funny bits form his dimwitted insurance investigator. And, the heist itself has enough stakes to keep you on the edge of your seat.
The film runs almost 2 hours long, but never feels too slow or too burning. There's plenty to like, with the script especially feeling fresh enough to appeal to layers of audience-goers. Someone who's up on the fashion industry will delight at the cameos by Anna Wintour and designers like Zac Posen. Celebrity gazers will see familiar MET Gala faces like Kim Kardashian West and Heidi Klum. Funny one-liners throwing shade to the fashion industry and even journalists will give industry insiders a chuckle.
With all this good, what's keeping it from being great? Perhaps it's the film's knack for not quite simmering enough. The amount of backstory needed to establish the relationships between the characters rides very close to mucking up the beginning stages of the heist. The team of actors assembled here is an Avengers-level amount of charming, funny, and talented. Between them there are numerous Academy Awards, Golden Globes, Emmys, and even Grammys. It's a shame not a single performer is given much on which to chew.
The film ends with a cheeky side-eye to the potential for another entry to come. Fingers crossed it'll feel more fluid.
Looking for a fun, mindless escape to the movies this summer? Ocean's 8 is worth your time.
Runtime: 1h 50min