Review – ‘Ocean’s 8’ is an enjoyable caper, but lacks the killer punch

Poster for 2018 heist caper Ocean's 8

Genre: Crime
Certificate: 12
UK Release Date: 18th June 2018
Runtime: 110 minutes
Director: Gary Ross
Writer: Gary Ross, Olivia Milch
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Rihanna, Awkwafina, Richard Armitage, James Corden, Dakota Fanning
Synopsis: Straight after her release from prison, a seasoned con artist plans an ambitious heist to steal diamonds from a celebrity at the Met Gala.

 

 

“A him gets noticed, but a her gets ignored,” says Sandra Bullock‘s Debbie Ocean as she gees up her troops ahead of the typically convoluted heist that forms the centrepiece of Ocean’s 8. It’s a sharp line and a button-pushing sentiment that suggests the movie is a feminist response to the sharp-suited masculinity of the comedically suave previous films in this series. That acid tongue is absent from much of the rest of the movie, which is largely a breezy adventure through a galaxy of product placement and fancy frocks. With that said, it’s tough not to be carried along by the flamboyant style of it all.

We meet Debbie as she talks her way out of prison and immediately meets up with former criminal partner Lou (Cate Blanchett) to plan their biggest heist ever. They enlist hacker Nine Ball (Rihanna) and pickpocket Constance (Awkwafina) to join them in hitting the Met Ball, engineering a situation in which clothes designer Rose (Helena Bonham Carter) will ensure that one of the world’s most valuable necklaces is around the neck of famous airhead Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway). Debbie also brings in diamond expert Amita (Mindy Kaling) to work on the jewels and fence Tammy (Sarah Paulson) to sell them on if all goes well. The plan is in place in time for the ball, which raises the question of whether they can actually pull it off.

As a heist thriller, Ocean’s 8 mostly works. It has a frothy, light tone that keeps the action moving, peppered with some decent jabs of humour and very strong performances from all of the cast members. Bullock is great value, but it’s Anne Hathaway who steals the show as a cross between Paris Hilton and her take on the White Queen in Alice in Wonderland. We know that Hathaway can play comedy exceptionally well, but this is the funniest she has been in a very long time. In a crowded ensemble, it’s Hathaway who shines – and not just because of the diamond jewellery glinting around her neck.

The downside of such a crowded ensemble is that there are evidently performers who are short-changed. That’s certainly the case in Ocean’s 8, which is the latest movie – after A Wrinkle in Time – to cast Mindy Kaling and then refuse to give her anything funny to do. Even more egregious is the waste of Cate Blanchett, who is set up as the right-hand woman to Debbie Ocean and given a bold, Bowie-inspired look, only to never make any real impact on the story or showcase anything approaching a character. The worst failure, though, is that of James Corden. He arrives in the third act as an insurance investigator, only to deliver an annoying performance that never really comes to anything.

It’s not entirely Corden’s fault, though, because Ocean’s 8 does come completely off the boil when it moves towards a conclusion. The heist itself is a zippy affair, marshalled with considerable fizz and energy by The Hunger Games helmsman Gary Ross. When the dust settles, though, the movie delivers a half-baked investigation that doesn’t feel finished, with the ending arriving suddenly and without much fanfare. A heist movie is only really as good as its final killer twist, which isn’t something Ocean’s 8 really has at all.

The ending is something of a whimper at the climax of a movie that has a surprising amount of entertainment value given its rather generic heist thriller trappings. All of the flair Ross brings and all of the charisma provided by the performers is completely squandered as the narrative meanders to a limp and ineffective conclusion. All that’s left is an onslaught of glittery frocks and product placement for jewellery, fashion houses and, bizarrely, sandwich shops.

 

Pop or Poop?

Rating: Pop!

There’s enough in Ocean’s 8 that works for it to be considered an engaging heist thriller that could well spark a new spree of movies in the Ocean’s franchise. Sandra Bullock is the glue holding together a talented ensemble that, despite neglecting some of its stars, allows Anne Hathaway to fly like an empty-headed eagle. It loses its way entirely for a third act that simply seems to stop when it nears the two-hour mark, rather than moving towards an organic conclusion.

 

Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.

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