The publicity campaign for the latest instalment into the treasured cinematic franchise that is ‘Ocean’s’ somewhat undermined the production at hand. Billing this title as something a comedically inclined venture, as if the female protagonists were not able to be as slick and suave as their male counterparts – what actually transpires is a film that maintains that same charm and smoothly polished efficiency, that is far from being the all out comedy it purported to be. In fact, it could even have done with a few more laughs.
Danny Ocean’s younger sister Debbie (Sandra Bullock) has been released from prison, having been sent down after being framed by her ex-partner Claude Becker (Richard Armitage). While many ex-convicts seem to assimilate themselves back into a normal, law-abiding society, Debbie know she is only good at one thing; heists. And so she strives to undertake her most ambitious yet, stealing a necklace worth 150m from the annual Met Gala – right off the neck of Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway).
But beforehand she must assemble a team, and she reconnects with Lou (Cate Blanchett) to get the wheels in motion. From there they concoct a near impossible, complex plan of action, recruiting the likes of fashion designer Rose Well (Helena Bonham Carter) to hacker Nine Ball (Rihanna).Also joining the ranks are Tammy (Sarah Paulson), Amita (Mindy Kaling) and Constance (Awkwafina).
Narratively, the film is unashamedly contrived, yet that’s something of a staple where this genre is concerned. The film abides stringently to the formula of the archetypal heist movie, from the way the team is assembled to the undertaking of the endeavour itself – and while fans of this franchise will adhere to such a comforting sense of familiarity, it’s fair to say that director Gary Ross has played it all rather safe. This unfortunately results in a rather pedestrian film, not quite as intellectual as the films that have preceded it. With a heist movie you always want to feel two steps behind the protagonists, and yet in this instance it’s all too easy to keep up with the pace. There’s great joy to be had from the pay-off, the moment it all makes sense – but here it all seemed plausible from the offset.
Thankfully, however, the material is elevated from the excellent cast that has been put together. Bullock is at her irrepressible best, and you completely believe in her as the mastermind behind it all. Unfortunately not everybody has been utilised to their strengths, with Kaling standing out in that regard, with too little to do – and Blanchett, who is the star of the show, is also underused. The character of Lou is worthy of a spin-off; if only to see the immensely talented actress pull off more from the character’s eclectic and creative wardrobe, that has echoes of the late David Bowie.
When compared to the original movies unfortunately Ocean’s 8 does fall short – it has that same sense of swagger, it’s just the heist itself is lacking somewhat, as a script that just doesn’t feel as quick-witted and perceptive. But when treating this as a standalone movie (and it should be seen on such terms) there is plenty to appreciate. And where this does come into its element, and supersede what came before, is within the camaraderie, for the notion of friendship and teamwork is strong, and presents the viewer with many of the film’s most memorable scenes, as these seven women (let’s not get into who the eighth member could be) work wonderfully together. Perhaps 11’s a crowd.
Ocean’s 8 is released on June 18th.