Debbie Ocean, the sister of Danny Ocean of the ‘Ocean’s 11’ franchise, is every bit as talented and intelligent as her brother and she’s just out of prison and gathers a group of seven women to pull a caper at the Met Gala. It’s a plot that promises a lot of gags and an opportunity to put brilliant actresses through the same fiery hoops as every man has done in a heist movie and watch them shine.
I liked ‘Ocean’s 8.’ It’s fun. It’s funny. I had a great time watching it. But with its almost 2-hour running time, my friend felt underwhelmed. We both were laughing throughout the film and the thrills kicked in when the heist was underway, but he felt like something was lacking.
There have been early reviews talking about how “bad” the film was and I defended saying that it was a proper con movie. These women were professionals, great at what they do, and they had before them was a complicated and difficult con to pull off with quite a lot of moving parts. Sometimes, I feel, we want more from a movie than what it promises and delivers.
The movie is caper film. And it’s a big caper. And that’s what we get. It’s a simple story, really, and sometimes, we just want more than what the movie is offering us. And I feel that’s a disservice to the work.
I enjoyed myself. There were solid jokes, delivered with such ease from a cast that includes Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Rihanna, Awkwafina, Mindy Kaling, and Sarah Paulson. The caper was complicated and not without its share of surprises. And like every ‘Ocean’s 11’ movie (and all its sequels) there is a clever way with which the “impossible” heist is orchestrated that is clever and enjoyable to watch.
But that’s when we got to the core of what was lacking with ‘Ocean’s 8.’ It was a straight-up caper movie without any real emotional investment. Unlike ‘Ocean’s 11,’ this film lacked a person to hate. Without a real antagonist, the movie had no real pressure to succeed other than wanting these brilliant actresses to make do things that we know they can do in their sleep.
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What ‘Ocean’s 8’ lacked, as a film, was a real challenge. There’s no real bad guy. There’s just a heist. And that could be okay too, but without any personal motivation pushing against the characters, if not just for Debbie Ocean, it lacked any real conflict.
Yes, the movie is fun. I’ve said that over and over again. But it lacked pressure and it lacked a villain, which this film needed. It’s slick and it’s cool but it’s also frictionless because of it.
There are a lot of good things in it. Sandra Bullock and Anne Hathaway are in fine, fine form, with Bullock doing what she does best and Hathaway stealing the scenes from other actors with a full-on commitment to parodying vapid, shallow actresses. Maybe it’s even a parody of what people think of her. It’s incredible.
But others seem underutilized like Cate Blanchett and a very charming Awkwafina.
While I really enjoyed myself, ‘Ocean’s 8’ felt safe. And while there’s nothing wrong with a good, clean heist film, there’s a lot of lost potential with a cast that's brilliant in a genre that has never been told in an all-women’s perspective. I hope there’s a next one, though, because all the elements are there. There is untapped potential in these characters, and I do want more.