This is going to be my review of the film Ocean’s 8, and I will make it spoiler-free because I am directing this review specifically at people who haven’t seen the film. If you’ve decided not to see it, I want you to reconsider, because it is a great movie.
Let me explain.
I love heists. I am a huge fan of the genre–to be honest my appreciation of fictional heists had a lot to do with me becoming a locksmith. (Just to be clear, I have never used my skills to commit a crime. All of the overcoming security systems I have done has been as a contractor for the legitimate owners of the property. But, deep in my heart of hearts, I’m always going to want to be part of a team of international jewel thieves. Don’t tell me you don’t.)
Okay, back to Ocean’s 8. This isn’t some “reimagining” or “homage to” or “interpretation of” a heist–this is the genuine article. It hits all the essential beats and it does it honestly. There’s a lot of fun here (and a good heist should be light-hearted) but it’s always having fun with, never poking fun at. This is a grand caper in a style I had thought lost forever.
We open with Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) at her parole hearing prior to being released from prison–already we have echoes of the classics. After a very heartfelt and impassioned promise to leave her life of crime forever and settle down to a quiet life with a normal job, we cut straight to her pulling a series of small scams at various stores for operating capital and a new wardrobe, climaxing with her fast-talking her way into a hotel room paid by someone else.
This is a freakin’ operator. She has Rat Pack levels of smooooth, here, pure chutzpah to the walls. Before the opening credits are finished we know that this Ocean is a force to be reckoned with.
Then, of course, she goes and looks up her former partner. Lou (Cate Blanchett, who is rocking the Debbie Harry bad girl look) has a nice, easy profitable scam going on and is reluctant at first to join up with loose cannon Debbie, just out of prison with a 100 million dollar caper she dreamed up while in solitary.
But Debbie convinces Lou that this scheme is money in the bank and the pair start putting together their string.
Okay, a quick note–make that two notes–about the string. First, they are all women. In the context of the caper that Ocean is planning, though, that is a perfectly logical move. As Ocean says (while turning down one of Lou’s suggestions because he is a male) “Men stand out–women are invisible. I want us to be invisible.” And she is exactly right for this target–it’s a very posh celebrity gala where women are there to show off someone’s fashions or to look sweet on someone’s arm.
Second, it is an ethnically diverse string. Again, though, that makes sense because they are recruiting criminals in New York, which is one of the most ethnically diverse cities on the planet.
They aren’t any “diversity hires” on this film. Everyone earns her place on this caper. And the cast has an amazing energy and chemistry.
Then we have the nuts and bolts of the planning, and it made my heart sing with joy. It all makes sense. Maybe not in strictly literal way–I mean, I don’t recommend you use this movie as a blueprint to steal jewelry or anything. But during the full run of this movie never once did I roll my eyes.
Do you have any idea how rare that is?
To give one example, the hacker Nine Ball (the singer Rihanna, who carries off the role beautifully) needs to get into the security system, so she finds the person with the access she needs and checks out his Facebook page, finds his interests, and creates a special webpage to lure him into clicking on it and injecting malware into his work computer. No magic VR, no super secret double encryption, no type really fast while random numbers go across the screen BS. Just something that would work in the real world.
The whole movie is like this. This is exactly what I was talking about in my recent post on Romancing The Reader. These filmmakers seduced me into buying the whole caper, hook, line, and sinker, and boy did it feel good.
And because everything feels so completely real there is real tension. Everything does not go as the mastermind planned, there are last minute surprises and foul ups. You have no guarantees going into this film. More than that I will not say.
One last point, which is a fairly minor plot point but I am going to mention it because its inclusion shows how seriously the filmmakers take the tropes of the genre they are working in. There is an ex with an ugly history in Ocean’s past who shows up in the film, and there is a tense scene between Ocean and Lou in which Lou accuses Ocean of running a “a job within a job” and Ocean of course denies it.
That is pure Pulp Crime Fiction, folks. Straight out of the pages of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. I mean, I was heartsick that Donald Westlake didn’t live to see it.
Ocean’s 8 is the genuine article. Forget what you think you know about this movie, it’s all entertainment, no message. Except maybe, “Capers are cool!”