One of Ocean’s Worst


Hollywood has never starved us of heist movies, but one where an all-female cast pulls of a job has been rare. And that is as unique as Ocean’s Eight gets. It is better than Ocean’s 12, but that is not saying much. Christian Tesfaye awards 5 out of 10 stars.  

Women are being brought into the spotlight. There was #MeToo, and now more women than ever are joining politics in the United States. They are also being allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia. That cinema follows suit should be a no-brainer.

This has not been without resistance. The 2016 Ghostbusters, with an all female cast, drew a heap of criticism, which was uncalled for. Sure the movie was derivative and uninspiring, but the source of condemnation should not have been that the film starred only female characters.

Ocean’s Eight is bound to incite similar furry, though it has been muted to this point. This is an unfortunate and ongoing battle that has to be fought. There should not be anything wrong with a movie that puts women in leading roles, where the protagonists are smart and have drives.

But that is where my loyalty ends. Ocean’s 8 is not a good movie. It follows along a predictable narrative, with no sense of plot originality and lacks fresh characters. It may be unique, kind of, in presenting us with a storyline where women are criminal masterminds – every eight-year-olds’ dream as the lead in the movie puts it – but its story is as old as the unrelentingly cool Bob le flambeur in 1956 that inspired the original Ocean’s Eleven.

Ocean’s Eight does not hide its derivativeness. The titular character Ocean (Sandra Bullock), whose first name is Debbie, is the sister of the now departed Danny (George Clooney). Like in the 2001 movie, the protagonist plans a heist in prison, and after bieng paroled out, heads to a blonde friend to propose a job. The resemblances are uncanny – typical of terrible writing.

That blonde friend is Lou (Cate Blanchet, at her most suave) – she is to Debbie what Brad Pitt’s character was to Danny Ocean. Together, they put up a team of eight to steal a 150 million dollar necklace. They do not plan to rob it from a bank though. They want to get a celebrity, Daphne (Anne Hathaway, who puts up a fantastic performance), to wear it for an upcoming event and before it is too late lift it off her without anyone else noticing.

Ocean’s Eight is not one of those movies where the protagonists are smart enough to pull off a job but one where the antagonists are too dumb to have one pulled on them. Throughout the film, what is proven is not that the eight are clever but how frivolous a security apparatus guarding a 150 million dollar object can be.

But the acting is not bad, especially of the lead characters. Bullock is funny as always and does not disappoint, but she is overshadowed by the indomitable Blanchet. The latter is our Katherine Hepburn – I have never seen a movie where her acting was mediocre, just spot on. I have had a hard time imagining her playing what is technically a burglar, but if she could pull off an elf in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, this must have been a piece of cake.

Hathaway does likewise pull off the sort of performance rarely expected in a commercial movie. She plays the role of a pampered, annoying and arrogant celebrity with grit and sincerity. She could have become our Audrey Hepburn if it was not for the fact that she does not choose movies she appears in wisely.

It has now been 17 years since we have been treated to an entertaining Ocean’s movie. The 2001 Steven Soderbergh version was highly stylized, brilliantly acted and exciting. The heist in the film was also one of the best I have ever watched. But the franchise went downhill from there on, with the second movie turning out to be almost unwatchable and the third being a mild popcorn flick.

But if one wants to see an excellent, original, thrilling, and beautifully directed heist movie, one has to go much further than the 2001 movie, to the film that inspired the original Ocean’s Eleven, which starred the likes of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.

That movie is the French Bob le flambeur, directed by the endlessly creative Jean-Pierre Melville. It is a definition of all that cinema should aspire to be. It is the ultimate heist movie, and 72 years of filmmaking still has not gained on it.

By Christian Tesfaye

Published on Jun 30,2018 [ Vol 19 ,No 948]



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