Kyle J. Steenblik

Oceans 8 is Enthralling and Delightful [Review]

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Ocean’s 8
Directed by: Gary Ross
Screenplay by: Gary Ross, Olivia Milch
Based on Characters by George Clayton Johnson, Jack Golden Russell
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, Rihanna, Helena Bonham Carter
Production companies: Warner Bros. Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures, Smoke House Pictures, Larger Than Life Productions
Release date June 8, 2018
Running time 110 minutes
Rated PG-13 for language, drug use, and some suggestive content
4 1/2 stars out of 5
Upon her release from prison, Debbie, the estranged sister of legendary conman Danny Ocean, puts together a team of unstoppable crooks to pull of the heist of the century. Her first stop is to assemble the perfect crew: Lou, Rose, Daphne Kluger, Nine Ball, Tammy, Amita, and Constance. Their goal is New York City’s annual Met Gala, and a necklace worth in excess of 150 million dollars.

Ocean’s 8 is a fantastic addition to the Ocean’s franchise, it is not a complete reboot of the series, but a continuation with a new set of characters.  I would describe it as a spinoff instead of a reboot, as that seems to be the most appropriate way to describe its relationship with the three previous films.  Ocean’s 8 keeps intact the playful tone, and quippy dialogue, while director Gary Ross was able to impart some more personal touches which include some meta self-aware humor.  Particularly when the team of top-notch thieves is assembled and Debbie Ocean makes a point of saying that they don’t need or want any men on the team.  The context of that somewhat throwaway line says quite a lot, that is that men get noticed, women are ignored.  While that sentiment may ring true today, I can say there were 8 women playing completely captivating characters that I couldn’t try to ignore if I wanted to.

Ocean’s 8 characters were dynamic, fluid, and uniquely feminine while embodying traits that are typically reserved for male characters or “gender-swapped” characters.  By “gender-swapped” I mean characters that are developed as one gender, but cast as the opposite resulting in feminine male, or masculine females, or to put another way, characters with irrelevant genders.  But I don’t want to focus on the gender of the cast, even though it is a major component of the film and it works so incredibly well.  I don’t want to focus on that because while it is fantastic and relevant, it should not overshadow how good the film is as a whole and with an ensemble cast whose chemistry is undeniably on point.

The only points I can take issue with is that the plot is a bit derivative, however, that is to be expected.  Almost all heist films contain a derivative plot, so what matters is how well the leading characters dance around well-trod paths.  Of course, I am referring to the jewelry heist, which we have seen so many times now that Agatha Christy would call it cliché.  What makes this work is the fact that these characters are very aware of this fact and use it to their advantage, which makes it incredibly fun to watch.

One big takeaway from Ocean’s 8 is an overarching theme of subverting expectations.  It is both exactly what an audience would expect from an Ocean’s film but achieves this through unexpected means.  The characters subvert the expectations of society to achieve something unexpected.  It is a subtle and smart film, disguised as a playful inconsequential summer movie.

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