In 2006, Colombia Pictures released Ghostbusters: Answer the Call using an all-female cast and the result was mixed reviews and a box office bomb. Now, in 2018, we have Warner Bros doing something similar with the release of Ocean’s 8, an all-female version of the Ocean’s 11 film from 2011, and the studio brought in a stellar cast, kept some connections with the Ocean’s 11 team, and created a film that is good but could have used just a bit more spice.
Ocean’s 8 is led by Danny Ocean’s sister, Debbie Ocean, played by Sandra Bullock. The film starts with Debbie being released from prison and immediately begins forming a team for the biggest heist of her life. So from the very beginning we already see a similarity to Soderbergh’s Ocean’s 11 as just like Danny Ocean, the film starts with the Ocean character being released from prison. However, that is not where the similarity ends, director Gary Ross (Seabiscuit) mimics the style of Soderbergh’s Ocean films with his camerawork, and by doing so the film comes off being safe versus trying to stand on its own. He does a good job, but I believe this was a missed opportunity here to create something truly special and make it stylistically different from the prior films.
The Ocean’s team consists of a wonderful cast and when you have a group of great actors and celebrity figures working together in one film there is plenty of excitement to see how they gel together. I was not familiar with Awkwafina prior to this film but really enjoyed her as the street hustler and she added some good comedic moments. Rihanna plays the team hacker, called Nine Ball and I thought that she would be the one to be swallowed up by the bigger names but I actually enjoyed her more than I expected. Mindy Kaling played the jeweler and Sarah Paulson as the suburban mother and expert fence, and while they were likable characters with a few shining moments they didn’t get to do as much as I was hoping. Helen Bonham Carter did not disappoint as the quirky fashion designer. I really enjoyed all the moments she was on-screen, and her breakdown early in the film was quite a treat. Cate Blanchett played Lou, Debbie’s partner, and she is a flashy dresser with perhaps the best glimmering suit around. Unfortunately, I felt the history between Debbie and Lou could have been fleshed out more. To compare, I did not feel their chemistry was as strong as George and Brad’s characters from the prior Ocean films. With Brad and George’s characters, I could really feel they were having fun and that they had a long history as friends, versus Sandra and Cate’s characters, the viewer knows they have a past as friends and they are flirtatious at times, but it felt more like they just got along well with one another. Then there is the adorable Sandra Bullock, who plays the team’s leader and whom I was most excited to see. Her performance was good but surprisingly didn’t stand out among the rest of the crew. Maybe I expected more of the bubbly Sandra that I’m used to seeing but she was going for the more relaxed vibe similar to Clooney’s Danny Ocean. Whatever it was, her performance just didn’t have that liveliness I come to expect from her. Thankfully Anne Hathaway is the knight in shining armor for the film. She makes her appearance as Daphne, the celebrity who would become the one to carry the jewels the team is trying to steal, and I really enjoyed her mannerisms, emotions, and comedy and if not for Hathaway, the film would have a steady pulse.
I will not go into details of the biggest heist of Debbie Ocean’s life, but I will say that, though the heist is fun (especially from Anne Hathaway’s performance), it goes way too smooth and I just didn’t feel the team was challenged enough. There are a couple of surprises that are revealed but I just never got that “wow” feeling.
There is plenty of charm in the film and it’s a great cast but everything boils down to being just fine. The characters and the team build up were entertaining, and there were bits of comedy to provide some good chuckles, but the heist in the third act left me feeling a bit unsatisfied when it was all said and done. Even when James Corden arrives as an investigator, he provides some amusement but doesn’t offer much of a challenge towards the team. Don’t get me wrong, Ocean’s 8 is an enjoyable film, I just felt it could have been something better. I look forward to a sequel and really hope that the same cast returns with a stronger script and different director (female perhaps?) to take some risks and provide a much-needed spark.