Cast: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Helena Bonham Carter, Rihanna, Sarah Paulson, and Awkwafina
Director: Gary Ross
Oceans 8 is the all-female reboot of the beloved Oceans trilogy originally starring George Clooney and Brad Pitt, about a crew of criminals who rob rich people for the fun off it. This trilogy was also a remake of the unsurprisingly mediocre 1960 original, featuring the very famous musicians of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.
Oceans 8 is the latest addition of the series of classic films being remade but featuring an all-female cast. The first being the god-awful Ghostbusters, but that review is for another day! The idea of remaking the 2001 Oceans 11 sounded like a terrible idea. That film is excellent; no need for a remake, especially when we know it’s gonna pale in comparison. You had so much talent behind that film, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia and Julia Roberts. So I was completely uninterested in a remake, nor did I care to watch it… until they announced the cast. Then I was sold.
The basic story of Oceans 8 is very similar to the original (just for simplicity, I’ll refer to the 2001 Oceans 11 as the ‘original’) It’s beat for beat the same exact premise but for a few details like the score for example, which in this entry is the diamond multi-million necklace worn around the neck of the stunning Anne Hathaway, which is worth a grand total of I-don’t-remember, but believe me when I say it’s worth millions.
Debbie Ocean (brother of Danny Ocean) has just been released from prison after her parole hearing, yeah exactly like the original film… A few montages later and she finally discusses the plan, to steal the necklace, with her close friend Lou, played superbly by Cate Blanchett. There’s no real reason for her desire to perform a crew heist, as questioned by Lou, but she simply replies “because It’s what I’m good at” with a smirk. At this point in the film we have our foundations, and what follows is a surprisingly solid ‘reimagining’ of the original classic.
The team of criminals is full of talent, ranging from Helena Bonham Carter, a once-famous now fame-less fashion designer, to a cool, quirky hacker (played effortlessly by Rihanna). The rest of the cast all do great jobs, especially Sarah Paulson who gives a caring, yet ruthless performance as Tammy, a single mother who has nothing better to do than to perform heists with her close friends. The character of Debbie isn’t explored very thoroughly, I can’t tell why she was in prison because that detail wasn’t discussed, and if it was I don’t remember it! This follows the same pattern as all of the other characters in the film, they’re all very charismatic and memorable, but have no development whatsoever. There are no (or very few) character arcs, and we’re just led to believe what has happened to the characters instead of showing us. Exposition scenes are very common in film nowadays, and it’s just getting frustrating and tiresome. Show the audience, don’t tell! It really sucks you out of the experience when the pacing slows down to remind the audience of why these characters are in this specific situation or predicament without visually showing us.
I was quite fond of the soundtrack, mainly due to the inclusion of The Notorious B.I.G.‘s Hypnotize (arguably one of the greatest and most recognisable hip hop songs of all time) and the rest is exhilarating and entertaining as well. The quirky editing mixed with the heart-pumping soundtrack makes for a really enjoyable experience at the movies. In terms of the editing, again it’s very similar to the original film with unique cuts and transitions but they still feel necessary, and are used effectively. I would expect nothing less from a heist film, because this style of filmmaking is very common within the genre. Ross managed to combine typical elements from a heist film and make them work. He doesn’t exactly change history or do anything different with these tropes, but he makes them work without being too noticeable. For example, the background score being used when something sneaky is going on is a typical cliché of heist films, but Gary Ross doesn’t make it seem like a cliché, in fact he makes it feel fresh and original, which is why Ross’ direction is a strong point in the film.
The script is nothing special and some of the dialogue is quite cringeworthy and forced. This is a weaker point in the film, but where the original film flourished. In the original, the script is very tight and witty, and while a lot of the dialogue is witty and smart, it doesn’t have that golden and special feel like the original film did.
Anne Hathaway plays the sexy antagonist character, except she isn’t really the villain. She’s a world-famous model who is attending a met-gala, and is going to be wearing the famous, diamond ridden necklace. Debbie Ocean’s crew has to take the necklace from her while she’s still wearing it. It can’t be removed due to a chip identification on the back of the necklace, and while it doesn’t seem very plausible and may appear to be quite far-fetched, It works tremendously well within the film and also makes for some pretty hilarious laughs as well. Her character, Daphne, is quite a stereotype; she’s very full of herself and only cares about her appearance. This is played for laughs quite often in the film, in particular when she’s looking into a mirror and complains that her neck is too long!
However, in the third and final act, it starts to lose its pacing and direction. It dramatically slows down mainly due to the inclusion of the most unnecessary celebrity character of the year! It feels like an extra 15-20 minutes for no real reason, and up to this point the film was perfectly paced. But this really slows it down, not to mention how ridiculous and forced it was to include this particular celebrity (who I won’t spoil) who has been in far too many films recently for his own good.
There are some great throwbacks to the original, some completely unexpected, others not so much. A couple of familiar faces from the original film have brief but satisfying appearances, and the end result of the film is very satisfying also; the conclusion is very solid and relieving as well.
In the end, Oceans 8 isn’t gonna win any awards (although it has met much praise from critics, surprisingly) but it’s fun, enjoyable and most importantly, entertaining. The characters, while a little undeveloped, are all recognisable, memorable and fascinating. Hathaway is once again phenomenal, and Sandra Bullock is sensational. You’ll be taken on a roller coaster ride full of twists and shocks, and at a mere 1h 50 min runtime, it doesn’t outstay it’s welcome! There are a few issues that I’ve discussed, but regardless, I’m very excited, if a little sceptical, about where the franchise is heading in the future. Definitely do not miss checking this one out!