There is nothing I love more than a good heist movie. I especially love it when the whole movie is about the heist itself, from the planning and the execution to the getaway and the payoff.
There is a certain joy to be had when watching a heist being perfectly executed on screen. My favourites, like The Italian Job (the original 1969 film, not the pathetic 2003 remake) and The Thomas Crown Affair, have jobs that are superbly executed, and the star-studded Ocean’s 11, 12 and 13 managed to pull off some wonderful scams as well.
Well, you can add Ocean’s 8 to that list as well. It features an all-female team that pulls off a heist that manages to live up to the ones in the male-led Ocean’s movies, while adding a touch of glitz and glamour to the whole thing at the same time.
Sandra Bullock’s Debbie Ocean (sister to Danny, who is supposedly dead in this movie; we are never quite sure if this is actually true) starts off at a parole hearing where she lies her way to freedom (“I just want a simple life”, she says).
An Ocean doesn’t change his or her tides though. As soon as she is released, Debbie scams her way into some new makeup products and a hotel room, before making contact with partner-in-crime Lou (an arresting but criminally underused Cate Blanchett) to pitch a heist she spent her five years, eight months and 12 days in incarceration planning.
The job? Steal a priceless diamond necklace, literally off the neck of actress Daphne Kluger (the splendid Anne Hathaway), at the Metropolitan Gala.
To do so, the intrepid duo recruits a team that includes expert hacker Nine Ball (Rihanna, who tries her best in a disappointingly low-key role), master jeweller Amita (Mindy Kaling), street smart pickpocket Constance (Awkwafina), retired fence Tammy (Sarah Paulson) and fashion designer Rose (Helena Bonham Carter).
While the much-derided (but rather underrated) female-led Ghostbusters remake tried to reinvent its universe by disregarding the original movies, Ocean’s 8 makes no such attempt.
In fact, it constantly reminds us that the movies reside in a (urgh) shared universe. Debbie’s relationship to Danny is established almost immediately and there are also pleasing cameos by Elliott Gould’s Reuben and Shaobo Qin’s grease man Yen (the buddy-relationship between Debbie and Lou mirrors George Clooney’s Danny and Brad Pitt’s Rusty in the other movies).
While it’s fairly entertaining to watch the team plan and execute the heist, Bullock’s burglary doesn’t quite hit the heights of Clooney’s capers. There’s a certain ruthless simplicity to Debbie’s plan, and the execution is done smoothly, without any major hiccups.
It makes for a satisfying heist, but one that just seems to fall short of being memorable, largely because the team doesn’t quite gel as well as the male ones.
It’s fascinating to see just how Ocean’s 8 director Gary Ross imagines a female-led heist would be compared to a male one though. Many of the tricks and schemes here play on the notion that females tend to be overlooked in this male dominated world. A major part of the heist takes place in a strictly no-men-allowed area – the women’s restroom, while Bullock flatly refuses to let a man into the team at one point, declaring, “A him gets noticed, a her gets ignored, and, for once, we want to be ignored.”
Well, there’s certainly no ignoring her and her team now. Move over, Danny, there’s a new Ocean in town.
Director: Gary Ross
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, Rihanna, and Helena Bonham Carter.