Ocean's 8 review: is it fourth time lucky for the non-sequential franchise?

When it comes to inbuilt glamour and star power, you couldn’t ask for a better cast than Ocean’s 8. Taking the lead from the Steven Soderbergh trilogy that pulled in George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts and Matt Damon, The Hunger Games director Gary Ross has a cast of Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, Rihanna and Helena Bonham Carter.

That’s quite the dream team, but is this a caper that they can pull off? The answer is yes – but they don’t get away scot free.

The movie opens with Debbie Ocean (Bullock) – the heretofore unmentioned sister of Ocean’s 11 lead Danny Ocean – being released from prison after five years. She promises her parole board to go straight, but it’s clear that she already has the institution wrapped around her little finger, and she’s immediately back to her old grifter tricks.

You see, Debbie Ocean has been planning an audacious heist since her faithless lover (Richard Armitage) had her thrown in the slammer. So she sets about getting a team together for a plot that involves some enormous diamonds, 3D printing (très modern!) and the glamorous Met Gala.

The ragtag bunch includes Debbie’s old partner Lou (Blanchett), down-on-her-luck fashion designer Rose Weil (Bonham Carter), master pickpocket Constance (Awkwafina), jewellery expert Amita (Kaling), grifter-turned-suburban mom Tammy (Paulson) and genius hacker Nine Ball (Rihanna). The eighth, unwitting member of their team is vapid celebrity Daphne Kluger, played with relish by Hathaway, who is clearly having a great time sending up her tabloid persona.

And the cast is fabulous. They stalk the halls of New York’s Metropolitan Museum, dodging A-list cameos and exuding charisma at every corner with the confidence of true con artists. The script is unassuming by dryly witty, and standout lines like Debbie’s, “A him gets noticed, a her gets ignored – and for once we want to be ignored,” succinctly highlight the credentials of the all-female reboot rather than bashing the audience over the head with a message that may or may not be as feminist as it thinks it is.

Blanchett and Bullock have an easy chemistry (though the movie remains coy on the exact nature of their relationship) and Hathaway is having a whale of a time, although we would have traded some of Bonham Carter’s Irish-accented bumbling for more of Awkwafina and Kaling. As for Rihanna, her screen time is unsurprisingly limited and her role understated, but the star power inherent in her presence cannot be denied.

The film offers a breezy two hours of entertainment, and despite a bit of drag in the inevitable ‘getting the gang together’ segment, once it gets going this is an enjoyable romp. 115 minutes flash by, with all the chopping between elements of the heist you would expect.

What the film lacks is a real sense of peril. In portraying its cast as the most competent women in the business, they become too competent, and can do little wrong. The film lacks a dangerous energy that you would imagine is part of a grand heist. More disasters and narrow escapes would have allowed the stars to better develop their characters and relationships – instead, the film sometimes falls into a business-like expounding of each step in the (occasionally plot hole-affected) plan.

Ocean’s 8 is already proving to be a global box-office success, and for a summer blockbuster it delivers both charm and glamour. But there is definitely a sense that with such a strong cast it could have shone even brighter. It’s fun, but not fantastic.

Ocean’s 8 is out in the US now and will be released in the UK on June 18.

Director: Gary Ross; Starring: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, Rihanna, Helena Bonham Carter; Running time: 115 minutes; Certificate: 12A

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