I feel like no genre is capable of producing pure cinematic joy as the heist film can. There’s just something magical about this subgenre of movie, giving us stories about glamorous, smart, and ruthless people pulling off fabulous crimes. I don’t know if it’s some strange aspect of the American psyche that also gets us obsessed with outlaws, but heist movies are just pure joy, some of the lightest and most fun movies that Hollywood produces. I love just about every heist movie I’ve ever seen, and if I know a new movie is going to revolve around a heist, I’m going to be very interested. Which makes it kind of strange that I have next to no familiarity with the Ocean’s franchise. I think they just came out at a strange period in my love of film, at a time where I labeled them as things my parents were into, and never revisited. Honestly, I’ve seen the original Frank Sinatra-era Ocean’s 11 more times than the Clooney one, which I’ve only ever seen once, and recently at that. It seems like a franchise that should be up my alley, and it probably is, but for whatever reason I’ve just never clicked with it. Which made the news that they were doing a soft-reboot of the franchise kind of unimportant to me. Until I learned that they were planning on doing something different with it. It would be an all-female cast, swapping the casinos of Las Vegas out with the famed Met Gala in New York. It was enough to pique my interest, and it payed off, because this movie ended up being a whole lot of fun.
Ocean’s 8 follows a woman named Debbie Ocean, the sister of the previous film’s Danny Ocean, a thief and con artist who has recently been released from prison after five years. And, in her time incarcerated, she’s planned the perfect heist. She immediately starts putting together a perfect team to pull off the heist, figuring that she only needs seven other women. She meets up with her partner Lou, who has been running a nightclub while Debbie’s in prison, and the two start setting up a solid team. They get a fashion designer named Rose to become their woman on the inside, a jewelry maker named Amita, a fence named Tammy, a hacker who goes by Nine Ball, and a pickpocket named Constance. Together they begin planning an elaborate heist that will net them one of the world’s most expensive necklaces, a Cartier piece called Toussaint, which they plan to get rented out to a famous actress named Daphne Kluger for the upcoming Met Gala.
The group succeed in tricking Kluger into hiring Rose as her designer for the Gala, and with help from Amita are able to convince Cartier that they should give this tremendously expensive necklace to Kluger. From there they begin casing out the Gala, planning a near-perfect heist where they cause Kluger to get sick at the Gala and then steal the necklace from her in the bathroom, replacing it with a fake. The plan honestly goes off without a hitch, letting them glide through everything since it’s taken Debbie five years to plan. And, they pull it off. They get the necklace, sell it along with several other pieces of jewelry, and are generally able to get away perfectly. They do hit a slight snag when the heist is completed and Kluger shows up, having figured out what they did, but it turns out that she’s completely on board with pulling off a heist, and end up helping them perfectly frame someone else from the Gala for the theft, who just so happens to be the man who ratted Debbie out and sent her to prison in the first place. And, together with Daphne, they’re able to convince the insurance agent who Cartier hired to find the necklace that the man was responsible for everything, letting them all escape scot-free.
There’s a whole lot to like about this film. But, it also has its problems. As has been covered other places, the film does lack in some drama, since absolutely everything goes off without a hitch in the story. They basically never run into any problems, and just pull off an elaborate heist with essentially no issues. But, the film ends up pulling this feat off, primarily thanks to the truly spectacular assembly of actresses that they found to act in the film. Every single one of these women seem to be having the time of their lives, getting to just play campy, somewhat over the top characters who are just the best at what they do. They all have amazing chemistry, and manage to hide any of the slightly weak elements of the film, elevating it above any slight gripes that I could possibly have about it.
Because heist movies don’t really need to get too bogged down in the plot, in my opinion. They need a solid plan that’s easily demonstrated, but other than that the main draw that a heist movie needs is likable characters. Because otherwise we know what a heist movie is going to revolve around. We’ll see them make a team, plan the heist, pull off the heist, and celebrate. Minor surprises and twists and turns can be tossed in, but overall we know what we’re getting from a heist movie when we sit down. It’s just the execution that matters, and the way the characters are crafted. And this film exemplifies this idea. The plot itself is incredibly simple, where the joy comes from is the terrific cast. The film doesn’t have anything overly deep to say, it’s just a hell of a good time spent with some wonderful character that I would love to check in on every few years as they steal increasingly ridiculous things.
Ocean’s 8 was written by Gary Ross and Olivia Milch, directed by Gary Ross, and released by Warner Bros. Pictures, 2018.
Categories: Reel Talk