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Ocean's 8: A thrilling caper that lets its criminals shine

Stanley Widianto
Stanley Widianto

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Fri, June 8, 2018 | 09:48 am

There is a scene in Ocean’s 8, the spin-off to the reliably thrilling Ocean’s trilogy by director Steven Soderbergh, where Lou, the aloof companion played by Cate Blanchett, asks, “What’s hard?” when commenting on their mission.

That question may as well describe the experience of watching Ocean’s 8.

A remake of the 1960 movie Ocean’s 11, Ocean’s Eleven and its sequels, Ocean’s Twelve and Ocean’s Thirteen, featuring George Clooney’s menacing antics as the robber Danny Ocean and his merry band of hustlers, reconfigured criminals into a reliable source of entertainment and pure spectacle.

They were fun when they robbed with abandon. To see them fail was disheartening — we root for them anyway.

The new movie features Danny’s sister, Debbie Ocean, played by Sandra Bullock. Larceny runs in her blood. She has that last name after all.

Fresh out of prison as a parolee, we see her comfortably — and without having lost her touch — help herself to items without paying for them.

Then she wastes no time devising a plan to rob (and settle a personal score of her own) a US$150 million Toussaint necklace by Cartier, and to complete her mission, she assembles her own merry band of thieves.

That band includes Lou; Amita (the underused Mindy Kaling), a jewelry maker; hacker Nine Ball (Rihanna, also underused); slick thief Constance (the exciting Awkwafina); washed-up designer Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter with an Irish accent) and mother of two Tammy (Sarah Paulson, ever electric).

It was fun seeing them trick security cameras, come up with a plan to place that necklace around the neck of actress Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) and pull off those sleights of hand.

A heist requires a plan so elaborate that you’d have to wonder if the very much human criminals could actually bungle their parts. These women make it look so easy, and that’s where Ocean’s 8 occasionally bungles its parts.

Thick as thieves: The band of criminals in Ocean’s 8 includes (from left) Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock), Tammy (Sarah Paulson), Nine Ball (Rihanna), Lou (Cate Blanchett) and Constance (Awkwafina).Thick as thieves: The band of criminals in Ocean’s 8 includes (from left) Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock), Tammy (Sarah Paulson), Nine Ball (Rihanna), Lou (Cate Blanchett) and Constance (Awkwafina). (Warner Bros. Pictures/File)

Ocean’s 8 makes sure that the fun has no limits. Adding suspense and a “what could go wrong” situation could be a buzzkill. And Ocean’s 8 has barely any real consequences that could, say, derail the plan or mess up the relationships between the criminals.

No, they’re not there to make friends. And it’s a point worth raising to see how much a criminal could feel remorse. But also no, they don’t feel remorse.

But the movie could have used more of those layers — but I guess that’s not the point of an Ocean’s movie. The script, courtesy of director Gary Ross and Olivia Milch, is competent enough to keep any statements that come out of the criminals’ mouths believable.

None of these criminals are campy, nor are they evil masterminds who want to right the injustice being wielded on this Earth.

And a big win for Ocean’s 8 is how well the characters sell the plot. Blanchett is a comforting presence, Carter is game despite her lack of experience in the mission, Awkwafina is a party trick that keeps on coming.

Bullock maintains her cool without skipping any notes, save for the unfortunate storyline that involves Debbie taking revenge against an ex-lover, Claude Becker (Richard Armitage), who gave her up to the police and sent her to prison.

The storyline almost (but thankfully fails to) defeats the purpose of having a female-led Ocean’s movie. Though it’s not necessarily a corrective measure, there’s a pleasure in seeing the Ocean’s formula tweaked.

“Somewhere out there, there’s an 8-year-old girl dreaming of becoming a criminal. You’re doing this for her,” Debbie says while briefing her team before their mission takes off.

Replace “criminal” with, say, “doctor” and you probably get the sense of the criminals’ motivation. That abandon is their passion — it’s their job. Ocean’s 8lets these criminals do this job, but skips a few beats about how risky it is.

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Ocean’s 8

(Warner Bros. Pictures; 110 minutes)
Director: Gary Ross
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Awkwafina, Anne Hathaway, Rihanna, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, James Corden

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