The Ocean’s 11 franchise began in 1960 with the Rat Pack of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin and then resurrected in 2001 with the Steven Soderbergh trilogy that had George Clooney and Brad Pitt in the lead roles, but except for Julia Roberts, the series proved to be an all-male outing. Even though it has been a consideration for the past decade, the wait is now over for the arrival of a female version of this heist comedy. Soderbergh moves to the producer’s chair and hands over the reigns of this property to award-winning director, Gary Ross (The Hunger Games), who has proven to deliver good films with strong female leads.
For audiences to truly appreciate this new chapter in the franchise, there is value in going back and experiencing the modern versions of these comedic capers of theft and revenge. Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) is being released on parole from prison after serving five years, eight months, and 12 days because of a con game that went wrong. During her time in prison, she looks to uphold the family tradition and the legacy of her brother Danny Ocean (George Clooney) by pulling off a grand heist at New York City’s star-studded annual Met Gala. She has to bring together a team to steal a famed necklace from the neck of Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) during one of the most exclusive social events in the city.
Debbie’s first point of contact after leaving prison is her trusted partner in crime, Lou Miller (Cate Blanchett) and once she gets her friend on-board for the job, they work to put a mob together who are up to the task. This crew includes trained thieves and novices in the world of crime, but each come to play significant roles in the Met caper. Despite various obstacles in the initial plan, everything seems to go to plan until Lou is made aware of another component of the idea that her confidant had kept secret. This personal twist could lead to the undoing of the whole scheme and could cause all involved to be spending a significant portion of their lives behind bars.
The two fundamental questions that most will have about Ocean’s 8 will be if Gary Ross strays from the formula that has defined this franchise over the years and if the all-female cast manages to measure up to their male counterparts in the respective roles? Taking on the latter question first is essential, because this is the most significant change in the series.
The award-winning cast proves to maintain the proud heritage of the Ocean’s series and add their touch to the tried and true formula. It is inevitable that each cast member can be compared to their predecessors for the original film, but it would be better to allow this team to prove themselves on their merit and talents as opposed to being compared to the classic ensemble. Bullock, Hathaway and Helena Bonham Carter as the fashion designer, Rose Weil, deliver the comedic timing and show the value of each of their parts in the entourage. While Blanchett delivers her dry wit and style that helps in her co-leadership role on screen. The women prove they offer something new to the familiar aspects of Soderbergh’s creation. Interestingly, the funniest bits are left to the one prominent male cast member, James Cordon as the insurance adjuster after the heist is completed.
The second question is a bit easier to answer, this caper capitalises on everything that has made this an appealing journey over the years. It is formulaic in its delivery and there are few surprises, but the cast’s chemistry and the few twists do provide an appealing option for audiences. The glaring weakness is that there is no apparent antagonist in the film. Without an Andy Garcia or Al Pacino to counter the actions of the team makes the mission a bit of a none event. This aspect does not derail the film, but it does cause some of the antics to be a bit purposeless.
As an opportunity for a date night or ladies night out, this offers an entertaining option for the season. There is little objectionable content, unless themes of theft and revenge are disagreeable as entertainment choices. For the fans of this series it will be an opportunity to look for cameos of the original cast and other stars throughout this film. What it lacks in originality this film makes up for in charm from this feminine troupe and provides a nice choice for those looking for a fun night at the cinema.
Reel Dialogue: Of all things to talk about: Friendship
What is the value of a good friend? Films like Ocean’s 8 make people ponder whether they have friends that would stick as close as these women do. This has been a premise throughout cinematic history and they show the felt need for solid friendships. Why do we need them in all seasons of life? Solomon writes of friendship in this manner, “two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” This is one encouraging passage amongst many that talks to the value of friendship and how God is the author of the beautiful gift to humanity called friendship.
1. What does the God have to say about friendship? (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, Proverbs 18:24)
2. Does God want to be our friend? (Genesis 3)
3. Does God care about my life? (Matthew 6: 8, 26)