It’s easy to get confused. But Ocean’s 8 isn’t the eight movie in the series. It’s a spin-off from Steven Soderbergh’s 2000’s Ocean’s Eleven series (which were numbered sequentially up to 13) – originally a remake of the 1960 Rat Pack-starring heist film. This time there’s only a hint of original protagonist Danny Ocean (George Clooney), as the reins have been fully taken over by his sister Debbie (played by Sandra Bullock).
Tonally, though, we’re in very familiar territory. Debbie, a con artist and thief fresh from prison, starts getting the plan together for a master heist – that she’s apparently been stewing over for five years in jail. The team covers many bases and skill sets in the form of Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, Rihanna, and… umm… a yet-to-be-revealed eight person.
And the characters’ skillsets are as diverse as their faces – each of them entertaining in their own way, except for Helena Bonham Carter playing a Helena Bonham Carter caricature with a bizarre Irish accent (to “shake things up”, I guess). While the movie stars deliver movie star-quality performances, the relative newcomers and lesser-known actors are charming and delightful in their own ways. James Corden appears as an insurance investigator in the third act, and proves that an antagonist can also be likable and charming, while Anne Hathaway’s snooty spoilt actress, is a lovely-to-watch target.
While Ocean’s 8 succeeds in being fun and watchable, the real key to this kind of heist movie is its sense of cleverness. The movie and the characters and the audience all take turns trying to out-clever each other, and the con definitely has a couple of great “aha, that’s so clever” moments. But if you investigate too closely, the plan’s plausibility easily starts unraveling.
Ocean’s 8 continues the series with confidence, and proves that women taking over a franchise makes no markable difference to its credibility or enjoyment. The film is great for some thrills, laughs, cheeky cleverness, and fabulous fashion, and even seems to set up more potential sequels (another trilogy would neatly take these movies up to Ocean’s 10, right?). But for all it does right, it’s ultimately a middle-of-the-road, relatively forgettable film. It’s a good time at the cinema, and while it might not live up to Soderbergh and Clooney’s best, it’s still worth a watch and the potential sequels.
Ocean’s 8 is directed by Gary Ross, and stars Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, Rihanna, and James Corden. It’s in South African cinemas from 22 June 2018.