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‘Ocean’s 8’ offers respite from summer action films

By Bradley Griffith

Good sequels to good movies (and who wants a sequel to a bad movie) are inherently difficult to make. It’s very difficult to recapture the magic of the original. “Ocean’s Eleven” was a good-bordering-on-great movie, but its previous sequels were not very good. “Ocean’s 8” is better than the other sequels, but not even close to the original.

Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) is in prison for a crime she did commit. That doesn’t mean she is happy about it or that she won’t get her revenge on the person who set her up to take the fall for selling fraudulent goods. Like her brother Danny Ocean, Debbie is a con-artist and thief.  She lives for the thrill of a well-planned and executed heist for big money.

Debbie has had five years in prison to plan her next job. She has played every possible contingency and scenario in her mind many times and knows without a shadow of a doubt how to run the heist and how to make it work. The only things she needs to pull off the job are parole, a crew of seven women and $20,000.

Debbie is let out of prison on parole and quickly reverts to her old ways. She contacts her partner and best friend Lou (Cate Blanchett). They gather a crew of five more women, Amita (Mindy Kaling), Tammy (Sarah Paulson), Constance (Awkwafina), Nine Ball (Rihanna), and Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter). These women have the different skills and specialties that Debbie needs.

The job is to steal a diamond necklace from Cartier that is valued at $150 million. Their plan is to convince Cartier to let famous actress Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) wear the necklace to the Met Gala, the most exclusive party in the world. The plan is to steal the necklace and replace it with a copy so no one will ever know it’s gone. But, surely the job won’t go as planned.

“Ocean’s 8” is supposed to be a slick and sophisticated heist movie like its predecessors. For the most part, the movie lives up to this billing. The heist itself is complex and daring, with more than one area where the entire scheme could implode. In fact, the plan is needlessly complicated and seems like it would be impossible to execute flawlessly.

The most important aspect of a movie like this is whether the correct mood is set for the entire movie. “Ocean’s 8” tries to capture the vibe that made “Ocean’s Eleven” not only successful, but a classic film. The mood is created not only by the story, but also through the characters themselves. The movie must make you be on the side of criminals, not an easy task to accomplish. The viewer needs to forget that the main characters are criminals and that they should not get away with the theft. 

I never forgot that the main characters in “Ocean’s 8” were actually the bad guys. In “Ocean’s Eleven” the guys were stealing money from a corrupt and crooked casino owner who was a bad person. It’s still not okay to steal from him, but it was at least understood and you rooted for the criminals to succeed. In “Ocean’s 8” they are stealing from Cartier for no reason other than Cartier has a very expensive diamond necklace that Debbie Ocean wants. Not okay. 

I will say that the movie was well cast and that every woman, with maybe the exception of Sandra Bullock, performed superbly in their roles. Bullock’s character seemed oddly devoid of emotion or anything other than a blank stare. The setting of the movie at the Met Gala was a great idea and allowed the filmmakers to add in several cameos by celebrities and a few twists at the end.

While “Ocean’s 8” is technically a sequel, and it could have been a much better movie, at least it provides a short respite from superheroes and giant action movies at the movie theater this summer.

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Grade: B

Rated PG-13 for language, drug use, and some suggestive content.