“A him gets noticed, a her gets ignored.” Uttered during this female-fronted heist, it’s hard not to ignore a single line of dialogue which points to the dilemma new blockbuster Ocean’s 8 faces, writes Darren Bevan.
On the one hand, Ocean’s 8 is faced with being released in a post #MeToo world, and coming nearly two decades after the Steven Soderbergh led remake of the 1960s film. And on the other, the fact it’s an all female cast will depressingly be viewed by some as a cynical film that’s hardly warranted – a rebuttal to a societal issue of under-representation that’s dogged Hollywood for the past 18 months or so.
Leaving all that aside, Gary Ross’ Ocean’s 8 is roughly on a similar trajectory to 2001’s Ocean’s Eleven.
This time, Sandra Bullock is Debbie Ocean, sister to George Clooney’s Danny (who’s apparently dead, a point repeatedly and unnecessarily replayed throughout the film). After being paroled from a five year stretch (the details of which become more apparent later on), Debbie meets up with former colleague Lou (the ultra cool Cate Blanchett) to propose a heist.
This proposition is to swoop on the Met Gala and steal a US$150 million Cartier necklace from host Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathway) – so the duo begin to assemble a crew and hatch a plan.
So far, so similar to the original Ocean’s series.
And yet, in its own way, Ocean’s 8 becomes its own thing, and bizarrely, it fails to do so in the process.
Bullock’s muted and introspective throughout, a counter to Blanchett’s spikier and effortlessly energetic turn as Lou. It’s an odd choice as a lead and while there’s nothing missing from Bullock, the film certainly misses a je ne sais quoi and enigma from its lead that’s noticeable throughout.
Repeated mentions of Danny Ocean, and even a framed shot of Clooney’s smiling mug on a table, give the feeling Ocean’s 8 is struggling to escape the former’s shadow.
But as with the usual Ocean’s films, there’s a slickness to the execution.
Jazzy soundtracks, split screens and stylish touches give it the spit and polish that is needed. It’s all perfectly well-executed, yet the narrative fails insofar as the heist is brief and underwhelming.
The Gala itself seems to be a weak excuse to allow some of the Glitterati to shine, with footage clearly shot at this year’s event, and with some celebs given more time to shine than is strictly necessary.
It’s at this point that James Corden comes in, imbuing the film once again with an energy that’s needed. While the end has more loose threads than a tapestry being picked apart, there is a general feeling that the jump-out-of-your-seat-and-punch-the-air moment is sorely missing.
The emotional investment for the heist is severely under-cooked, and while there are some twists at the end, the resolution feels piecemeal.
Ultimately, the film needs to be judged on its own merits, rather than as a piece of feminist sisterhood cinema.
On that front, and sadly, Ocean’s 8 lacks the sparkle that’s been given to its targeted diamond. Sure, it’s polished, accomplished and blessed with some truly talented actresses, but it can’t help feel muted and subdued.
Its low-key understatement may help it, but it certainly doesn’t have the zing and bling which it’s clearly trying to pursue. And in any heist movie, that is nothing short of criminal.
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Rihanna, Helena Bonham Carter, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, Richard Armitage
Director: Gary Ross