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Review: ‘Ocean’s 8’ Delivers a Star-Studded, Gender-Swapped Twist on the Familiar Heist Formula

June 7, 2018Ben MK

Arriving about a decade after the last entry in Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's trilogy, Ocean's 8 offers yet another fun, light-on-its-feet take on the heist genre. However, the mere fact that the film's principle cast is comprised entirely of women also makes it a conversation-starter about gender equality and diversity in Hollywood.

Starring Sandra Bullock as the sister of George Clooney's purportedly deceased Danny Ocean, Ocean's 8 isn't a reboot of the franchise, but rather takes place in the same universe as Soderbergh's trilogy, following Debbie Ocean (Bullock), a con artist in her own right who's just been paroled after a five-year prison stint. Of course, despite the sincere reassurances she gives the parole board that all she wants is "the simple life," it doesn't take Debbie long to revert to her old ways, as she immediately sets about assembling a team to pull off her next big heist.

This time, the object of desire is the Toussaint, a 6-pound diamond necklace worth $150 million, which also happens to be kept under the strictest of lock and key in a secure, subterranean vault. So to steal it, Debbie hatches a plan that involves unsuspecting red carpet darling Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway), whose celebrity clout will convince Cartier to loan it out to her to wear to the annual Met Gala, where Debbie and her handpicked crew — best friend Lou (Cate Blanchett), bankrupt fashion designer Rose (Helena Bonham Carter), jeweller Amita (Mindy Kaling), hacker Nine Ball (Rihanna), pickpocket Constance (Awkwafina) and fence Tammy (Sarah Paulson) — will be waiting to switch it for a 3D-printed, zirconium fake.

Directed and co-written by Gary Ross, who shares the screenplay credit with Olivia Milch, Ocean's 8 is briskly paced and doesn't waste much time on formalities, as we go straight from Debbie's re-entry into the outside world, to a montage of her recruiting the members of her team, to the plotting and the execution of the heist. That means aside from Debbie, there isn't much room to explore the backstories of these eight women, and so the motivation for each of these characters to opt into this high-stakes endeavor can essentially be boiled down to the $16 million payday they'll each receive. As for Debbie, there's also the added bonus of exacting her revenge on her sleazy, art-dealer ex-boyfriend (Richard Armitage), who was the reason she ended up behind bars to begin with.

That said, like the heist itself, the whole point of the movie lies with its execution. And in that regard, Ocean's 8 has got it where it counts. Even if this were just two hours of banter between Bullock and Blanchett, the pair's on-screen chemistry would make the result worth watching. Instead, we get six more charismatic performances. And while some of these actresses have limited material to work with, it's still incredibly difficult to choose a favorite from this ensemble cast, which is to say that the film in no uncertain terms accomplishes what it sets out to do.

As for how Ocean's 8 furthers the dialogue about gender equality and diversity in Hollywood, perhaps it's an overstatement to say that it does for the heist genre what Black Panther did for superhero movies. It's no exaggeration, however, to say that, like Bridesmaids before it, Ocean's 8 is proof that there exists a wider audience for all-female ensemble films, and that Hollywood is no doubt finally starting to take serious notice.

Ocean's 8 releases June 8th, 2018 from Warner Bros. Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for language, drug use, and some suggestive content. Its runtime is 1 hr. 50 min.

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