It’s been 11 years since George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Mat Damon last teamed up as three con men pulling off a series of daring heists in the Ocean’s franchise. A lot has changed in that time – not least women getting more visibility on screen in more interesting, multi-dimensional roles. So, it makes sense that the 2018 reboot of the popular heist movies features an all-star cast of ladies, ready to prove they can be just as cunning and clever as their male counterparts.
Ocean’s 8 isn’t a straight remake, but it does begin familiarly. Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) has just finished serving several years in prison (“Five years, eight months, 12 days”), and is ready for release and glammed up for the occasion – just like her brother Danny (Clooney) was in 2001’s Ocean’s 11. A long stint behind bars hasn’t changed her or left her old tricks rusty, though, which she immediately proves by pulling off a small but impressive con on some luxury beauty products in high-end department store Bergdorf Goodman that will make you wonder if shoplifting really could be that easy.
Reunited with wing-woman Lou Miller (Cate Blanchett), Debbie sets about recruiting her dream team to help her pull off an impossible-sounding theft – that of a diamond necklace worth over $150 million that’s locked in an underground vault and never taken out. There’s hacker Nine Ball (Rihanna), designer Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter), jeweller Amita (Mindy Kaling), thief Constance (rising rapper and comedian Awkwafina), and former criminal turned stay-at-home-mum Tammy (Sarah Paulson). Their mark: Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway), a self-important celebrity whose need to be the centre of attention at the biggest night in fashion – The Met Gala – they hope to exploit to get their hands on the goods.
Though the action is nothing particularly new, Ocean’s 8 is a riot of laugh-out-loud moments, the seductive allure of criminal behaviour, and just enough references to the franchise’s male-run past to keep old-school fans happy. Its leads might be Hollywood A-listers, but the biggest stars are its less famous cast members – Kaling’s comic timing is impeccable, while Awkwafina’s street-smart Constance gives a gritty alternative to the polished glamour of Bullock and Blanchett’s double act.
There are a few areas where Ocean’s 8 could improve. It feels a little reductive for the main sub-plot in an all-female reboot to involve getting revenge on an ex (art dealer Claude Becker, played by Richard Armitage), as if these brilliant women couldn’t just want to steal for money, thrills, or boredom like their male counterparts. James Corden’s reign as America’s favourite Brit continues here too, popping up unexpectedly in the movie’s final third and acting exactly as you would expect him to – grating and distracting. Still, even with these flaws, Ocean’s 8 feels like a triumph and one that will hopefully keep this gang on our screens for years to come.