Review: Ocean’s 8

Last Updated on August 5, 2021

PLOT: Newly released from prison, con-woman Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock), and right-hand-partner Lou (Cate Blanchett) pull together a crew for their most ambitious heist yet, stealing a $150 million Cartier necklace from the Met Ball.

REVIEW: The durability of the OCEAN’S franchise has always impressed me. Based on the 1960 Rat Pack “classic” (it’s actually quite a bad film), Steven Soderbergh’s OCEANS ELEVEN became, in its own way, as iconic a film as the Sinatra-starring original, spawning two sequels – neither of which were very good. Eleven years later, the franchise is back in this female-led spin-off, which, the absence of Soderbergh and the fellas notwithstanding, feels as much like an OCEAN’S movie as any of the others did.

It helps that the lead, Sandra Bullock’s Debbie, is Danny Ocean’s sister, with George Clooney’s character having died-off sometime before the start of the film. Some of her underworld associates are the same, such as Elliot Gould’s Reuben, and she possesses a similar breed of iconoclastic cool. Similarly, she has the same kind of “other half”, yin & yang friendship with her number two, Cate Blanchett’s Lou, who plays the more grounded partner in the same way Brad Pitt did in the original series.

If OCEAN’S 8 has a failing, it’s that it suffers from the absence of Soderbergh behind the camera. Gary Ross is a more than capable replacement, but it’s clear he’s “doing” Soderbergh, but without the innovation, although he does a good job keeping the pace nice and tight (it’s actually far less draggy than TWELVE or THIRTEEN).

As in the others, some degree of revenge is involved, with Bullock wanting to get even with a shady art dealer (Richard Armitage) who seduced her and then left her holding the bag for the cops, resulting in a five-year stretch. Mostly though, cold, hard cash is the objective, and like the others, the fun of the heist is ramped up in lieu of the danger, making this a lighthearted caper flick.

Bullock is perfectly believable as Clooney’s sis, and is well cast in a part she could theoretically play for years if it takes off at the box office. Blanchett helps ground the movie as the more sensible partner, while Rihanna is the kind of Matt Damon fill-in, does a nice job. Between this and her scene-stealing turn in VALERIAN (remember that one), she’s actually got some real promise as an actress. The others are regulated to more comical turns, like Helena Bonham Carter is the Irish-accented designer going broke and needing a score, or Awkwafina as the pick-pocket. In a surprising, and disappointing turn of events, Mindy Kaling barely registers as the diamond cutter they bring on board, with it feeling like most of her shtick was either toned down or cut out. Sarah Paulson has fun in an atypically comic turn as a housewife unable to resist the lure of crime, while Anne Hathaway chews scenery as the model who’s wearing the necklace they need to steal.

Ross keeps thing jauntily moving along, helped by a terrific Daniel Pemberton score, and a fun late-in-the-game turn by James Corden as a sharp-witted insurance investigator. As far as the series goes, OCEAN’S 8 ranks significantly below ELEVEN but handily outclasses the follow-ups, TWELVE and THIRTEEN, with no phoning-it-in as is sometimes the case in all-star movies like this one. It’s a fun romp.

Ocean's 8



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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.