Sandra Bullock Leads All-Female Band of Thieves in ‘Ocean’s 8’

Eleven years after Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and his crew pulled off their last great heist in “Ocean’s 13,” his equally unscrupulous sister, Debbie (Sandra Bullock), gets her shot in “Ocean’s 8.” Just as was the case with Danny in “Ocean’s Eleven,” Debbie is first introduced at a parole hearing. In flawless makeup, she manages to convince the board that she’s done with her criminal ways and wants nothing more than to live a simple life, but, – *spoiler*- this turns out to be a lie. Upon her release, one of her first stops is to visit the grave of the recently-deceased Danny, whom his sister is not entirely convinced is enclosed in this tomb. No word on what has become of his beloved Tess (Julia Roberts), but surely she’s shoo-in for “Ocean’s 9.” In NYC, Debbie reunites with her former cohort Lou (Cate Blanchett), a nightclub manager who serves many of the same functions here as Brad Pitt’s Rusty in the original trilogy, acting as Debbie’s right hand and even reining her in when necessary. With Lou by her side, Ms. Ocean goes to work implementing the heisi of the lifetime – the stealing of a diamond Cartier necklace worth upwards of $150 million, the upcoming Met Gala being the stage for her production that has been five years in the making.

Much has been made of the all-female cast, and “Ocean’s 8” certainly allows its actresses to shine in the kind of roles not normally given to women. Fresh off playing her alter ego, the romantically-challenged Dr. Lahiri on “The Mindy Project,” Mindy Kaling plays capbale jewelry maker Amita. Debbie’s crew also includes Tammy (Sarah Paulson), a suburban mom living a double life as a fence, cryptic expert hacker Nine Ball (Rihanna showing off her comedic chops), deft pickpocket Constance (Awkwafina), and, the wild card of the bunch, passe fashion designer Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter). Unlike the other women, Rose has no criminal background, but her being millions in the red make her the perfect person to recruit to get close to the actress hosting the gala, the high-strung but likable Daphne Kluger (a sublime Anne Hathaway), who unwittingly because the number eight in their crew, as they set her up to wear the necklace to the gala that they intend to nab and switch with a fake. Debbie’s reason for working exclusively with women is simpler than one might think. “I don’t want a him, I want a her,” she explains when Lou suggests adding a man to their ranks. “Because a him gets attention, and for once, I need us to go unnoticed.”

All of the women involved in the heist, even Rose (for the most part), prove to be focused, calm and collected. They also defy stereotypes here by avoiding the emotional traps that female characters typically fall into. For example, we see Tammy, a loving mother, display little guilt as he leaves her kiddos with her unseen husband as she heads to the city for her “temp job.” And instead of a cheesy romance plotline, we get a revenge subplot, as Debbie aims to ruin her swarmy ex-lover, Claude Becker (Richard Armitage). Also, it’s worth mentioning that the women have few concrete motives here beyond “getting theirs,” and they’re so cool and badass that they viewer is okay with this. No longer does a female character have to have a sick relative or starving children to be compelled to engage in criminal activity.

After the satisfying conclusion of the Met Gala, there is a drawn-out final act in which a new character, John Frazier (James Corden), comes onto the scene to investigate. Although Corden has some funny quips, the story loses some of its momentum in the lead-up to the ending.

Ocean’s 8” opens June 8 nationwide.