Friday, 6 July 2018

Film Review No. 41 Ocean's Eight (12+)

Strong Points:
Entertaining and humorous throughout
Didn't rely on raunchy or over the top jokes as many films do when trying to show 'real female characters'
Clever heists
Multiple twists
Some nice references to the previous trilogy...
Low stakes make for an entertaining popcorn flick...

Weak Points:
...sometimes too much so
Slightly too long
James Corden's role wasn't needed
...But was it really needed?
...albeit a forgettable one
Some characters could have had larger, more fleshed out roles

Spoilers ahead:

In-depth Review:
I didn't go into Ocean's 8 with much in the way of expectations. I've only really glanced at the Ocean's trilogy when it's been on TV, although I have enjoyed the heists of Ant-Man and Tower Heist. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the film, with it delivering on its promise of glamour and trickery.

Sandra Bullock leads the all-star cast as a just released convict set on going pretty much straight back to what she knows. Theft and tricks. Within the first 20 minutes or so she steals some make up by posing as a grumpy refunder and gets a luxury hotel suite by using a variety of different communication devices (hint: you don't have to show your face to book rooms). That's without mentioning that her getting out of the prison was one big hoax, with all the guards knowing her plans but letting her do it as she is the prison 'Fixer'. Oh, and she's the brother of Clooney's character, but that doesn't really matter.

And that's one of the problems of the film. Being connected to the Ocean's trilogy was good for publicity and allowed for some great references, but it also stifled the film's own personality. Most of the film has an odd atmosphere about it, with Bullock's character almost waiting for Clooney to show up. It shouldn't be needed, as the cast and crew could quite easily hold their own without the Hollywood hand holding and need for a franchise.

Talking of the cast, we had quite a varied mix in Ocean's Eight, both in terms of skill and screen time. Cate Blanchett was great as Bullock's side kick and voice of reason, although her own backstory wasn't really explained. We had one shot of her looking at a bike in a magazine, and that was practically her entire motivation. The rest of the side characters as well, were pretty thin on the ground in terms of backstory, relying on stereotypes and clichés more than anything.

You had the bored housewife of Emily Blunt, the young, aspiring blogger of Awkwafina, the suffocated daughter of a traditionalist mother in Mindy Kaling, the stoner of Rihanna and Helen Bonham Carter playing herself. It's a shame really, that this varied cast weren't given more to do, but I guess a sequel could alleviate these problems (which was probably the plan all along). One character which was given the screen time they deserve however, was Anne Hathaway's Daphne Kluger. Basically a satire on the rich and famous 'no brains', Kluger turns out to be a lot more than meets the eye and Hathaway jumps into the role with gusto. Every laugh, eye movement and retort is played up to eleven, and it's quite a sight to see this happen next to Bullock's restrained performance.

Now onto the actual heists. Without go too much into spoiler territory, let's just say there's plenty of twists that I personally didn't see coming. And while you know they'll probably succeed, the director holds onto certain scenes for just long enough to allow for tension without boredom and a breath of relief when it all goes to plan. All the heists are also completed with an air of style which you can't help but smile at - the characters aren't doing these heists because they particularly need to, but because they want to and are good at it. This allows for a confident air to lay over the entire film, adding to the entertainment value. It's not a thinking film, instead you watch and are astounded but what the characters can do, without having to think about whether they really should.

Humour adds to film's entertainment as well. While it may not be a laugh-out-loud kind of film, there were a couple of moments which caught me off guard and emanated a soft chuckle. Mostly though, you just smile and sometimes cringe at the characters and their ticks and tricks. It helps that the entire film is tongue-in-cheek, with it almost asking the audience to look in disbelief at the proceedings, shaking their heads as the stakes ramp up and the crew keeps winning.

The film was sometimes so tongue-in-cheek, however, that there was an air of unbelievability around it all. Characters looked at the camera more than once and the entire section with James Corden felt like a sketch from his Late Late Show. While it was entertaining to watch and laugh along with, it did constantly bring you out of the action of the film, reminding you that you are in a movie theatre, something which escapism filled movies aren't meant to do.

Conclusion: Ocean's Eight was meant to be a revolution of a previous franchise, placing it firmly in the 21st Century. What is actually shown is more of a love letter to films long past, with self-contained plots, plenty of sparkle and ultimately little substance was the name of the game.

Rating: 73%

Thanks for reading, Satamer.

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