Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven – a slick remake of The Rat Pack‘s 1960 film – kick started a trilogy that would dominate the early millennium on the big screen. Amassing a star-laden cast list collective, the Ocean’s trilogy remains fondly recalled by many as top notch Hollywood escapism and, flaws notwithstanding, an example of confident, classy, big budget, filmmaking. Since its finale in 2007, many pondered whether we would see an Ocean’s Fourteen but a few were caught by surprise by the announcement of not only a lower digit titled spin-off/sequel but one led by an all female cast.
Amidst the wave of change blowing through the industry, gender and diversity are the biggest issues in modern movie making and this film has understandably garnered a few headlines. From breaking new box office ground for the series to some sniffy (albeit overall more positive) reviews from critics leading to the cast calling out the reviewing community as broadly white male and thus not clicking with their film, Ocean’s 8 has made itself known. But, away from all this hoopla and twitter mania, how is this “gender swap” reboot (as people seem to be insistent on calling it)? Well, cracking as it happens.
Like some of the others in the series before it, Ocean’s 8 is a hugely voguish affair with some snazzy moments of scoring by Daniel Pemberton and the expected fabulously glossy edits (by Juliette Welfling) and stylish cinematography by Eigil Bryld. Behind that style though, is a crime caper with strong foundations, which boasts humour and surging levels of charisma from its lead cast, who compensate for the times when Gary Ross and Olivia Milch’s screenplay hits a snag. The Met Gala heist is fun and seeing this gang assemble and naughtily set their game in motion feels compelling and gratifying. There is no doubt that you have seen certain elements here played out before (the recruiting scenes, set ups, revenge angles, etc.) but for any familiar moments you are still drawn to the screen by the effortless chemistry of the leading octave.
Even when James Corden’s (who is actually a fun addition to the cast) insurance fraud investigator arrives and in turn the film stretches believability in quickly and conveniently reaching its tie up to the angle involving Richard Armitage, the energy never really lags and with all the twists and turns throughout, you’ll likely find a couple of surprises set in motion that keeps things lively. Plus, in an Ocean’s film what is the odd logical over stretch? Fact is, this is entertainment and unlike the disappointing Ghostbusters by Paul Feig, this spin-off/sequel/reboot (delete as you see fit) does not weigh down its cast by incessantly calling back to the past, instead it uses the franchise name as a platform to let the ladies do their own thing and frankly, I’d love to watch an Ocean’s 9 after seeing the excellent ensemble at work here.
Sandra Bullock’s Debbie Ocean (the sister of George Clooney’s Danny) is the firm franchise link but Bullock distinguishes the character and harnesses her often overlooked comic ability and leads the film with determination and swagger. She is joined by a brilliantly charming Cate Blanchett as Debbie’s pal Lou, while Anne Hathaway glams it up as celebrity diva Daphne Kluger, Mindy Kaling is a joy as jewel maker Amita, Sarah Paulson plays things much straighter as the prepared Tammy, Awkwafina is fun as quick talking Constance, Rihanna is impressively cool as hacker Nine Ball and Helena Bonham Carter is a hoot as oddball fashion designer Rose Weil. Together these ladies are allowed to run wild with their jewel snatching operation and the results are thrilling, swift and utterly enjoyable.
Ocean’s 8 is driven by its cast and how much of a ball they are having together and this feeling of empowering mischief is very infectious.