Directed by Gary Ross
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Sarah Paulson, Helena Bonham Carter, Mindy Kaling, Rihanna, Awkwafina
Rated PG-13 for language, drug use and some suggestive content
1 hr. 50 mins.
From sturdy oaks fall acorns. They can sow the next great oak or be nibbled by squirrels. Movie franchises have a similar dynamic. Sequels and reimagined titles can grow to great heights and live for decades — or be rodent food. The roots of Ocean’s 8 sprouted from seeds planted long ago by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. The original Ocean’s 11 (1960) was an excuse, really, for the Rat Pack to make a little cash on vacation in Vegas. A classic, but poorly made, film.
Steven Soderbergh’s reworked Ocean’s Eleven starring George Clooney proved what the galaxy-of-stars concept was capable of. The subsequent sequels, not so much . . . until now. Ocean’s 8 is a direct descendant, a heist tale told with a strong, all-woman cast. Writer-director Gary Ross (The Hunger Games, Seabiscuit) and co-writer Olivia Milch have honed a clean vehicle for an all-star lineup of Oscar-, Emmy- and, yes, Grammy-winning talent to drive. It’s a smooth, conservatively stylish story, not outlandish or broad, and carried out with . . . ahem . . . jewel-like precision.
These badass actresses glisten like the Toussaint, the $150 million diamond necklace and object of the heist at the movie’s core. Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) has spent over five years in prison plotting a way to steal it. She’s the estranged little sister of George Clooney’s Danny Ocean, who does not appear in the film. Or does he?
After getting sprung, Debbie reunites with friend and nightclub owner Lou (Cate Blanchett, sporting an Atomic Blonde haircut), reveals the nuts and bolts of the heist and assembles the players needed. First, down-on-her-luck designer Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter) is recruited to dress and accessorize haughty actress Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) for the gathering of the bejeweled and the bedazzling, the nexus of all that is tres chic, the Met Gala in New York. The major accessory, of course, being the Toussaint.
The rest of the crew includes pick-pocket Constance (rapper-comedian Awkwafina); skilled jeweler Amita (Mindy Kaling); a polished homemaker and fence, Tammy (Sarah Paulson); and computer hacker Nine Ball (Rihanna, stunning through fatigues, dreadlocks and crocheted snood). She’s a surprise find for Debbie and Lou. “All these hackers are Russians,” says Debbie. “Or is it all Russians are hackers?” asks Lou.
The plan is executed to the 1960s-influenced groove of Daniel Pemberton’s soundtrack. There’s musical homage to the Sinatra family, and even Sammy’s voice wafts out of a speaker at one point. Visually, the art treasures and New York City are a feast to behold. There are surprises and big-time cameos from actresses you’d never expect. Some plot twists come out of the blue, but not to worry — Ocean’s 8 is an engine with no knocks.
Richard Armitage plays slick, preening Claude Becker, Debbie’s art dealer/ex-boyfriend. Look for him to have an important presence. Ultimately, the law arrives in the corpulent form of James Corden as John Frazier, the insurance investigator. Corden puts his The Late Late Show wit to use trying to track down the Toussaint, easily mixing into the film’s flawless chemistry. That kind of cohesiveness, with a star-studded cast, is never easy. It’s what makes the movie, though briskly paced, so fluid and even.
Everyone contributes to Ocean’s 8. Bullock’s charm, Blanchett’s hipness, Bonham Carter’s dotty aplomb, Paulson’s measured calm, Hathaway’s eyes speaking volumes when she has no lines, and the deft, comic gifts of Kaling and Awkwafina (real name Nora Lum) all blend cohesively. This is a fun heist film. No clues here. You won’t know if the crew gets away with it unless you see it.