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Thursday, 7 June 2018

Ocean's 8

(M) ★★★½

Director: Gary Ross.

Cast: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, Rihanna, Helena Bonham Carter, Richard Armitage, James Corden.

The latest Harambe memes were off the hook.
The title of this film - number of main characters aside - suggests the makers have intentionally left room to make two sequels before they bump into the numbering of the George Clooney/Brad Pitt/Matt Damon Oceans movies.

If that's the case, bring on two more of these if they're as good as this one. That's not to say Ocean's 8 is great - it never meets the lofty heights or first-time-around ambition of Ocean's 11 - but it's a fun crime caper that's cool and breezy, like all fun crime capers should be.

Bullock stars as Debbie Ocean, the equally criminal sister of George Clooney's Danny from the previous Ocean's films. Fresh out of jail, Debbie has spent her time in prison coming up with her own version of the perfect crime - she's going to steal a $150 million necklace off the neck of world renowned actress Daphne Kluger (Hathaway) at the Met Gala, New York's social event of the year.

With the help of her old pal Lou (Blanchett), Debbie begins putting together a team to pull off the seemingly impossible.

Like the other Ocean's films, half the fun comes from the cast - they look like they're having a good time, and that's pretty infectious. The film makes us feel like we're part of the gang, even when we don't fully know what's about to transpire.

What does transpire is effortlessly charming and super-cool (try not to think too hard about the plot-holes though) and it all goes off without a hitch. In fact it's all too easy - the "will they get caught?" tension is fairly minimal.

Given that this is effectively the fourth film in the series, it's not surprising the film's not that surprising. We've seen all this before, and much like how the all-female cast is a twist on the familiar, everything that happens is a variation on a theme. The crew with the highly specialised talents, the fascinating planning, the intricately detailed crime, the late sleights of hand pulled on the audience - it's a formula. It's a winning formula, yes, but to a fair extent you should only expect the expected. The few surprises we get are nice, but nothing truly out of the box.

These criticisms aside, Ocean's 8 is enjoyable escapism and, as mentioned, that largely comes down to the cast. Bullock and Blanchett make a good pair, and their gang of talented miscreants is great, in particular Paulson, Rihanna, and the always wonderful Bonham Carter, who doesn't get to flex her comedic muscles often enough. Hathaway also deserves mention for a fun and slightly fruity performance.

The connections to the broader Ocean's universe are subtle but welcome. While it could have gotten away without the Ocean's branding, the movie would have suffered by unwanted comparison. Instead it's embraced the family name and is a welcome "sister film" that benefits from what it plucks off the family tree.

You can expect they'll go back to that tree a lot more if we see Ocean's 9 and 10. If so, that's fine by me.

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