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Ocean’s Eight: the Good and the Bad

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This article contains minor spoilers for Ocean’s Eight.

Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven hit screens in 2001, blowing audiences away with Danny Ocean and Rusty Ryan’s intelligent, complex and far-too-easy scheme to rob a casino. Whether the audience loved the all-star cast (including George Clooney and Brad Pitt), or they loved the idea of giving it to the system, the film was a major success. In the coming years, it earned itself two sequels with less-successful outcomes. 11 years after the conclusion of the Ocean’s trilogy, the series has made a return with Gary Ross’s comedy-heist film, Ocean’s Eight.

The film follows Sandra Bullock as Debbie Ocean – the late Danny Ocean’s sister – in her mission to steal a $150 million Cartier necklace. However, no Ocean’s film would be complete without an all-star cast – this time, it’s all female. Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, and Rihanna are some of the eight compelling and kick-ass leads of the film, all with important roles in the crew. Some other well-known names such as Dakota Fanning and James Corden appear in the film too, really making this series return with a flying start. With a cast like that, how could it possibly go wrong?

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Ocean’s Eight starts off with Debbie Ocean being interviewed in prison and being asked about her life outside if she were to be released. She tells the guard that she just wants a simple, happy life – no more crime. Does that sound familiar? That’s exactly how Ocean’s Eleven began. After being released, Ocean pairs up with her partner-in-crime, Lou (Cate Blanchett) and they immediately discuss their first heist. Familiar again? Yeah, it pretty much follows the exact structure that Soderbergh’s original film established. And so, they begin this wonderful plan of how they will steal the super-expensive necklace, starting with the crew.

The main characters mostly have their own feel – they were all unique and interesting, and I found myself caring for all of them. Cate Blanchett’s character, Lou was particularly well formulated, and you could tell that her character had depth and meaning and a strong background. I often find with remakes of films (such as the 2016 Ghost Busters), characters tend to be lacking in substance, with the film’s priority to be known under the same name as its predecessor. Thankfully, you could tell that real thought was put into the motivations of each character. Surprisingly, Nine Ball (played by the wonderful Rihanna) was my favourite character – her smart-arse personality was initially annoying, but gradually grew on me. Though Rihanna didn’t have too many lines in the film, she really shined through the bunch, making her short scenes some of the best.

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However, phenomenal casts can’t fix bad writing. The plot closely followed that of the 2001 film, hitting all the marks – the ex-partner being part of the motivation, the target person being involved with the ex-partner, the ‘Oh, no! How will they get out?’ moment. Yet, they some how messed that up. In total, around 20-minutes of the film were taken up by filler scenes where either nothing happened, or we were taught something in a really lazy way.

Often, the crew are given problems which should be difficult to them, but are fixed very simply, hence missing opportunities for character growth and development. Alternatively, they’re sometimes given very simple tasks which are (for some reason) really difficult for them to handle, despite their already established intelligence. Initially, there seemed to be a kick-ass feminist story developing, but it was soon diminished by the ‘crazy ex-girlfriend’ trope and the unnecessarily stupid decisions. Despite this setback, it is a mostly feminist film which portrayed women as strong, beautiful and independent. In this film, women from different backgrounds and values come together despite their differences. The writers (thankfully) put all these women on the same side – not as people who just bitch all the time – and even overcome ‘ditsy’ stereotypes with Daphne (Anne Hathaway).

However, a lot of the time it feels like the writers needed things to happen and they chose the easy, inconsistent way of fixing it, rather than taking the time to write something good. There are many secrets that are gradually revealed, which often seem counter-productive to the cause – why the secrets when it would’ve been easier to just tell everyone to begin with? Often, there are twists that are simply predictable, even from the title of the film. There weren’t as many ‘wow’ moments as the writers wanted.

Despite this, the entire cast did an amazing job, even with the average material they were given. The cinematography and camera shots were all mediocre – nothing mind-blowing or revolutionary, much like the entire film. Though this film wasn’t the life-changing, better-than-the-original piece of feminist art that it intended, it’s completely un-problematic and fun.

Rating: 5/10 – a perfectly adequate introduction to a much better series.