'Ocean's 8' — What the Critics Are Saying

Is the latest caper in the heist franchise a success?
'Ocean's 8'   |   Barry Wetcher/Warner Bros.
Is the latest caper in the heist franchise a success?

The reviews for Ocean's 8 have arrived. 

The heist film starring Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, Helena Bonham Carter, Rihanna and Anne Hathaway earned a ho-hum response from The Hollywood Reporter's David Rooney. The film features an all-female leading cast and is a continuation of the franchise started in 2001 by director Steven Soderbergh that starred George Clooney and Brad Pitt.

"This is a self-satisfied exercise that's only occasionally as much fun as it thinks it is," writes Rooney. "Rather than reimagining them as newly minted characters, Ross locks himself into a limiting corner by treating Debbie and Lou strictly as female clones of Clooney's Danny and Brad Pitt's Rusty Ryan in the earlier films. The whole point of rebuilding the glamorous crime caper around women should be to make them different. But although they swap tuxedos for couture gowns and heels — or in biker chick Lou's case, slinky pantsuits and a razor-cut shag — the dynamic lacks freshness."

He continues: "Even when the stakes are at their highest, the leads' delivery is cooler-than-thou, tongue-in-cheek deadpan, accompanied by smug half-smiles, which frankly, gets a bit one-note tiresome and self-conscious. Blanchett's relaxed swagger at least indicates that she seems to be enjoying herself, at one amusing point going undercover in a halal food truck. But Bullock's performance feels stiff despite the character's take-charge confidence."

Rooney did highlight the supporting cast, however, saying, "The funniest standout by virtue of her homegirl insouciance and wiry physicality is Awkwafina as nimble-fingered Queens street hustler and pickpocket extraordinaire Constance" and "Rihanna also has an appealing presence and an impeccable command of the side-eye double take."

Faring less well is Helena Bonham Carter. "Bonham Carter is playing an eccentric character not unlike her frequent designer of choice, Vivienne Westwood, which should be clever casting, but her bonkers mannerisms feel as strained as her inconsistent Irish accent. Her timing is constantly off," Rooney notes.

Vulture's Emily Yoshida wasn't bowled over by Ocean's 8, despite its moments and the "extremely hype cast" she feels the film is ultimately let down by the "workaday flatness" of director Gary Ross. Yoshida writes that the "film has intrinsically been proposed as more than just a fun summer heist movie" and "a symbolic balm for all the ills of a male-dominated Hollywood," but "in its actual form, it doesn’t feel like much more than a thrown bone." 

The Guardian's Benjamin Lee gave the film two stars out of a possible five and was another to zero in on the underwhelming direction of Gary Ross as well as the limp script and overstuffed cameos. "We know the format at play here and the script, co-written by Ross with up-and-coming screenwriter Olivia Milch, struggles to lend a fresh tone to the formula," writes Lee. "Despite the comic skills of the cast, there’s a noticeable lack of wit, a glaring hole in place of the back-and-forth banter from its predecessor. So many scenes feel a couple of drafts away from flying despite best intentions of the cast," he adds. 

Kate Erbland's review for IndieWire was muted, grading Ocean's 8 a B-. Erbland felt that the all-star female lineup is wasted, constrained as it is by the expected conventions of the Ocean's franchise. Erbland feels that while there are entertaining parts to the film, particularly the bits where the team is assembled, the movie is lacking when it "switches into heist mode." "Despite a cool backdrop and a daring idea, the heist itself feels like a third-tier Soderbergh joint," Erbland writes. 

Richard Lawson's review in Vanity Fair was more positive, writing that Ocean's 8 was first and foremost "fun." "There’s no disaster here, no regrettable misfire to be chagrined about," Lawson writes, although like many other reviewers, he found the visuals, which were snappy in Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's films, somewhat "flat" in the spinoff. Lawson also had issues with the simplified plot and cautious writing. "Something about the film feels less thorough, less nourishing, as if it doesn’t trust its audience to contend with something more complicated."

Slate's Inkoo Kang gave Ocean's 8 a thumbs-up, writing that the film revels in the "delights and depth of girly culture." Kang praises the performances of Hathaway and Bullock, writing that the former gives a "revelatory performance on par with her turn as Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises." Regarding Bullock, Kang writes that her "casting as Debbie Ocean is the first of several production decisions so clever they feel like no-brainers." For Kang, Ocean's 8 was just straight fun and that "there’s something unabashedly, almost brazenly, joyful about the film’s adoration of fashion and fame." 

Manohla Dargis, writing in The New York Times, also gave Ocean's 8 a positive overall review despite some annoyances with ex-boyfriend plot elements and Ross' directing. Dargis praised the performances of Hathaway, Blanchett and Bullock and described, "the movie is more or less the Sandy and Cate show until Ms. Hathaway fires up her smile and turns the part of a clichéd Hollywood female narcissist into a disquisition on performative femininity." 

Rolling Stone's Peter Travers noted in his positive review that whatever quabbles you might have with the movie, that's not what you are there for anyway: "Casting eight female stars, all consummate scene-stealers, as master thieves in a gender-reversed spin on the all-dude Ocean's 11 trilogy? It's a smart idea – not to mention smashing fun. Yes, the plot has more holes than a wheel of swiss cheese and director Gary Ross (The Hunger Games) lets the script he wrote with Olivia Milch go slack in its mid-section, but odds are you won't give a fuck. Ocean's 8 is a heist caper that looks gorgeous, keeps the twists coming and bounces along on a comic rhythm that's impossible to resist. What more do you want in summer escapism?"