The Ocean’s franchise is belatedly back from the brink with a new director and a whole new, all-female cast. And with the benefit of being 11 years removed from the most recent previous entry, it’s a welcome return for the glitzy, caper-filled series.
The cast might be the most obvious of the revisions, but the transfer of directorial duties feels almost as notable. Out goes Steven Soderbergh, director of Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen, and in his stead comes Gary Ross (The Hunger Games). And whilst he delivers on the slick style of 8’s predecessors, he doesn’t quite bring the same levels of swagger and effortless cool that those films had. Though Soderbergh’s 2004 and 2007 sequels did suffer from diminishing returns – particularly the meta mess that was Ocean’s Twelve – his heist movie pedigree is undeniable; you needn’t look any further than his 2017 effort Logan Lucky for a better example of what the genre has to offer than this.
Nevertheless, credit to Ross for the course correcting from mistakes made in the later two Ocean’s films that he accomplishes here; this is solid entertainment, a breezy throwback injected with new life by its leading ladies. Yes, the boys are out. Unlike the 2016 Ghostbusters entry which Ocean’s 8 has drawn comparison with – insofar as both are series with male-dominated casts swapped out for female ensembles – wisely it’s forgone the full reboot treatment, instead acting as a sequel/spinoff combo.
Heading up the fresh lineup of criminal masterminds is Sandra Bullock’s recently out-of-prison Debbie Ocean, sister to the now deceased Danny Ocean (George Clooney). The first thing to tick off her list upon release? Pulling off a heist of epic proportions, stealing an excessively extravagant necklace straight off the neck of prima donna actor Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) at the star-studded Met Gala. For which she’ll need a team. And herein lies the film’s biggest asset: it’s cast. Helena Bonham Carter’s eccentric fashion designer turned crook Rose Weil is a blast (even if she does go missing around halfway through), the BFF partner in crime Lou, played with oodles of charm by Cate Blanchett, and full-time mother, part-time racketeer Tammy (Sarah Paulson) lead the way. And the team is rounded out by the triple threat of Rihanna’s hacker Nine Ball, Awkwafina’s hustler Constance and Mindy Kaling’s diamond expert Amita. The latter of the trio being underused, while the former just about manages to walk the tightrope of believability. It’s Hathaway that pulls the biggest burglary of the movie though, pinching the spotlight from Bullock and company, playing on Hollywood diva stereotypes while remaining surprisingly endearing.
As for the main heist itself, besides taking its time in building up to a full head of steam, it’s as you would expect; near-misses, exciting trickery and high stakes galore. Still, for all of the surface changes made with the film, at its core it remains staunchly formulaic. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Rating (out of 5):