Netflix UK film review: Ocean’s 8
James R | On 30, Oct 2018
Director: Gary Ross
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, Rihanna, Mindy Kaling, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway
Watch Ocean’s 8 online in the UK: Netflix UK / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Google Play
“A Him gets noticed. A Her gets ignored. For once, we’d like to be ignored.” That’s Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) in Ocean’s 8, a film that sees a group of women team up to commit an audacious robbery – just as they also steal an entire franchise from under the feet of their male counterparts. Neither of these is a coincidence: following on from 2016’s hilarious Ghosbusters reboot, this reimagining of the Ocean’s series refreshingly repositions women at the centre of the frame, after decades of them typically being left as overlooked figures on the side of such capers. Historically, it’s a man’s genre, and Ocean’s 8 is a reminder that there’s absolutely no reason why the hell it should be.
If that sounds like a heavy point for a heist flick to make, Ocean’s 8 succeeds precisely because it doesn’t let you feel the burden – women, after all, shouldn’t have to answer for men’s shortcomings. Bullock’s mastermind, the estranged sister of George Clooney’s Danny (smartly not appearing on screen), throws away her quip with the lightness of a Diet Coke tied to a helium balloon. Then, the film gets on with the business of having a good time.
We join Debbie as she’s released from prison, where she’s had five years and eight months to plan the perfect crime. The target? The Met Gala. The prize? A Cartier necklace. The reward? $150 million.
And so she does what all criminals do in these situations: she assembles a crew. First up, Lou (Cate Blanchett), an old friend and longtime collaborator. Then, they recruit Amita (Mindy Kaling), a jeweller, Constance (Awkwafina), a streetwise con artist, Tammy (Sarah Paulson), a fence, and Nine Ball (Rihanna), a hacker. Their woman on the inside? Fashion designer Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter), whose star has faded enough for her to agree to get them into the event. Their mark? Actress Daphne Kluger, who will wear the hardware and carry it into our heroes’ slippery hands without anyone realising – including her.
It’s a cracking ensemble, with each actress bringing wit and just enough character to their roles, from Paulson’s slightly frayed and frenetic mother, desperate for illegal good to stash in the garage, to Rihanna’s Nine Ball, whose talented recluse sparks to life when her unexpected younger sister pops up. Awkwafina steals every scene she’s in as Constance, while the hilarious Helena Bonham Carter is all eccentric quirks and nervous tics, contrasted nicely with Cate Blanchett as the confident, louche Lou, simultaneously both the sensible one and the coolest kid on the block – you’ll wish you could wear a suit as well as she does.
There’s a gently unpredictable chemistry between the group, held together by Sandra Bullock’s grounded, driven grifter, but the biggest surprise comes from Anne Hathaway, who plays Kluger with a self-aware preening and insecure ego and never misses a chance to ham it up. Olivia Milch, who co-writes the script with director Gary Ross, gives each one a chance to shine as the heist unfolds at a slick pace. The only disappointment is that the job itself isn’t more intricate, and that a large part of it feels a bit too easy, thanks to the use of modern technology. The stakes therefore feel lower than the first Ocean’s outing – perhaps a result of them using the Ocean’s moniker in the first place.
But while the recent Widows gives us a glimpse of a heist film with heft, which addresses the gender of its protagonists head-on with emotional and social weight, there’s something to be said for the way Ocean’s 8 unabashedly sits back and lets its women just have fun. A heist flick where the female characters are more surprising than the plot? The mark of its success lies in the simple fact that, after decades of being sidelined and underwritten, at no point do you ever wonder where the men are.
Ocean’s 8 is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.