RogerBW's Blog

Ocean's 8 15 March 2019

2018 caper film, dir. Gary Ross, Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett; IMDb / allmovie. Con-artist and thief Debbie Ocean gets out of prison, and immediately plans her biggest heist yet.

The most obvious structural difference between this film and the Soderbergh-directed trilogy is that each of these people has an actual personality as well as specific things to do (with one exception, the fence, whose only character trait is "harrassed mother"), and even something of a character arc. They're not even all professional criminals. This is the first of the films that genuinely feels like an ensemble piece rather than a couple of leads and their hangers-on.

What they do have is a solid chemistry that's blessedly free of the macho posturing that was an inevitable part of the Soderbergh films. This isn't a rejected trilogy script dusted off and with changed character names; it's written with female characters in mind, but at the same time doesn't make them into generic women.

The problem, though, is that the heist is a bit too straightforward; that's mostly in keeping with the other films, and presumably there are limits to how complex you can get when you need to sell enough tickets to pay for $70 million of production budget. But I could really have done with a few more things (apparently) going wrong, a bit more of a sense of challenges to be solved by ingenuity rather than by magic technology. And there's no villain, no sense of personal opposition or indeed justification for the criminals' actions except in a minor side plot.

Particularly notable performances, beyond the leads, come from Anne Hathaway as the model who's going to be wearing the diamond necklace that's the target of the theft (with some effective commentary here on how strict the "beautiful woman" societal role can be), and Helena Bonham-Carter as a failing fashion designer who's recruited to make sure she does wear it by designing a dress round it. On the other hand, towards the end, there are two male roles that seem forced, and a failed sop to critics; you're already going to annoy the stupid male fans by having a female-led film that isn't about romance, so why not make these characters female as well?

This isn't as slick as the 2001 Eleven, but there's a sense of genuine camaraderie that's missing from those films, and that makes up for a great deal.

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