Ocean’s 8 (Gary Ross, 2018) 3 out of 4 stars.
I love a good heist movie, even though I’d never commit the acts portrayed, myself. In Ocean’s 8, a companion (of sorts) to the previous three “Ocean’s” films – Ocean’s Eleven, Ocean’s Twelve and Ocean’s Thirteen – Sandra Bullock gathers a crack team of crooked female collaborators to prove that women are just as fun to watch being bad as are men. And though it may may break no new genre ground – even while laying a solid new gender foundation – and has a few plot holes big enough to drive a getaway truck through, the film is so raucously entertaining and joyously amoral that we don’t much care about its occasionally pedestrian faults. It’s great fun, with a solid cast that holds our attention from start to finish.
Bullock – in her first role since the 2015 Our Brand Is Crisis – plays Debbie Ocean, sister to Danny, the heretofore lead criminal of the series (absent here). Like brother, like sister: when we first meet her she is getting released from prison after serving a five-year sentence for a caper that went south. Walking out the jailhouse doors, Debbie wastes no time conning her way into luxury clothes and accessories and a posh suite at a top hotel. From there, she swoops back into civilian life, gathering together partners old and new to put into action the plan she devised while serving time. If she can exact revenge on the old lover whose testimony sent her away, all the better.
Debbie’s scheme involves stealing $150 million in diamonds from the annual Met Gala by convincing a down-on-her-luck clothes designer to insist that the luxury jeweler Cartier release a heavily guarded historic necklace to adorn the neck of the gala’s hostess. Not so easy, not so fast. Like all good organizers, Debbie seeks various specialists, each with a unique set of skills that, together, make this crazy stratagem possible. They include rapper Awkwafina, Cate Blanchett (Thor: Ragnarok), Helena Bonham Carter (Suffragette), Mindy Kaling (star of the series The Mindy Project), Sarah Paulson (Blue Jay) and singer Rihanna. Anne Hathaway (Colossal) gives a hilarious turn as the ostensibly clueless hostess, brilliantly spoofing her celebrity persona. Individually, they all impress; collectively, they dazzle. In a delightful touch, the half-German Bullock is even allowed to show off her maternal tongue. Everyone is in fine fettle, and we, the audience, are the lucky beneficiaries of their talent.
True, it is all in service of a celebration of crime, but that is the thrill we derive from such shenanigans. It’s a guilty pleasure to root for those who take pleasure in being guilty. Since director Gary Ross (Free State of Jones) moves each scene along at a jaunty pace, and the screenwriters take pains to make the antihero protagonists sympathetic (and funny), we rarely pause to consider exactly what, and whom, we applaud. Plus, the victims of said (nonviolent) crime are made so fatuous – by clear design – that it’s hard to lament their fate. Though often silly, Ocean’s 8 is a satisfying cinematic sleight of hand, injecting new life into an old series. I look forward to Ocean’s 9.