I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Ocean’s Eleven is one of the best remakes out there; Steven Soderbergh’s stylish take on the 60’s Rat Pack vehicle has become a staple of the heist genre. And yet, with one of the greatest directors of our time behind the camera and an abundance of star power in George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts etc., the two sequels to the film failed to make an impression and it stands as one of the more underwhelming modern franchises. So with that in mind, how does Ocean’s 8 fare in comparison to its predecessors?
Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) is the estranged sister of iconic criminal Danny and is released on parole following five years in jail. With a passion for crime in her blood, she immediately sets out with best friend Lou (Cate Blanchett) and a team of talented con artists – Helena Bonham Carter, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina and Rihanna – to take advantage of a shallow model (Anne Hathaway) and steal some precious diamonds.
Ocean’s 8 is easily the best this franchise has had to offer since it began; it’s a sleek and supremely entertaining sequel with a lot of charm. Daniel Pemberton’s score is great, the editing is quick and exciting, and the humour for the most part is spot on. It playfully replicates some of the story beats of the first film and makes a few references to it– Some more satisfying than others – but this isn’t a well it draws from too often. Ocean’s 8 has the confidence to be its own entity and that’s it’s best quality. The cast work wonderfully together, but Sandra Bullock is the clear stand out. Bullock hasn’t starred in a film since the 2015 flop Our Brand is Crisis, so with three years away from the spotlight, Bullock’s big screen return is a triumphant one. Within the first five minutes, Bullock sells the tricky nature of Debbie Ocean and fills out the room in every scene she’s in with a quick wit and an overwhelming confidence. Let’s just say there’s no trouble convincing us that she’s Danny Ocean’s sister. Her chemistry with Cate Blanchett is delightful; two conniving minds bouncing off each other flawlessly is an absolute treat to watch, and Blanchett is brilliant as always. The entire cast comes together well as a team, which is ultimately the most important part as the film would have fallen to pieces without that element.
As far as the actual scam goes, Ocean’s 8 isn’t bringing anything new to the table in terms of the heist genre. You’re not going to be blown away by anything that takes place and the film certainly won’t end up in the conversation as far as the best heist films go, but what we’re given is clever enough and makes sense and the film more than justifies its existence by offering more than the previous two sequels. There are plenty of sequels that can’t even say that, especially 11 years after the last film. It does fall a little into the “Really?” moments that come as part and parcel with this genre, but they are easy to forgive. The worst that this film has to offer is a pointless Tinder joke – Will somebody please tell Hollywood that explaining how Tinder works does not constitute as an actual joke? – and an appearance by James Corden. I turned a little sour when he came on screen as I’d completely forgotten he was in it, but I’ve had to collect myself and be fair because my initial reaction was rooted far too deeply in my own personal feelings on the actor. Truthfully, it’s not a terrible performance, but it’s also not enjoyable. The issue is that he delivers it with a sense of importance that just isn’t there; it’s a very standard character that any actor could have pulled off, but the way he delivers each line feels as though he interprets himself to be far more enigmatic than he is. To top it off, he just sticks out like a sore thumb and the performance resembles any one of the performances he’s given on British television where it actually worked. As far as any other issues, there’s an argument to be made about the level of character development offered to the leading ladies and the relationships between them, but it’s honestly no worse than what we were given in the Sodebergh original.
Ocean’s 8 more than justifies its existence by offering more than the previous two sequels in the form of a stellar cast, a killer score, an engaging story and an overall good time. At its absolute worst, it’s simply a very entertaining film that just happens to have James Corden in it, so I think it’s safe to say that this is a solid win.