‘The 355’ Review

To expand upon my quick thoughts in the video, The 355 is a spy film directed by Simon Kinberg and stars Jessica Chastain, Penélope Cruz, Fan Bingbing, Diane Kruger, and Lupita Nyong’o, Édgar Ramírez, and Sebastian Stan. The story follows Mason “Mace” Browne, a CIA operative who must team up with a group of female agents from MI6, BND, DNI, and MSS after the death of her partner to stop a terrorist organization from starting World War III.

Simon Kinberg is an excellent writer and has been a part of some of the most entertaining films to date. However, as a director, his films have been lackluster. His directorial debut with X-Men: Dark Phoenix is lauded as one of the worst X-Men films to be made and now with The 355 he has proven that he should stick to writing. His films seem to lack in awe and amazement leaving the audience with generic action films. The plots are very procedural and lack the inspiration that Kinberg sometimes shows when he writes films. His actors never feel like they want to be in the film they are part of, something the director is in charge of. They are to pull a great performance out of their actors and not just have them read lines.

In terms of the plot, The 355 falls into every clichéd spy film trope in the book. There’s a character who supposedly dies off-screen early on in the film, which is a tell-tale sign they are still alive and probably working for the enemy. There is a generic electronic device that can cause global catastrophes that the group must get their hands on before it falls in the wrong hands. At the same time, their governments also want to use a tool for themselves. Leaving the main characters with a moral dilemma as well. The film has no identity of its own with its story feeling like part James Bond and part Jason Bourne. There is even a line that where a character mentions that “the enemies are no longer countries but people,” a phrase stated by M in Skyfall. By the end, it felt like the studio was going for an all-female version of The Expendables, although they never actually form a team like the trailers insinuated. Also, the film’s title which is derived from Agent 355, the codename of George Washington’s female spy during the American Revolution has nothing to do with the film apart from a passing reference by Mace at the end. Something that would not play well in other countries leading me to hope a different title was used for the international release.

The performances in the film are pretty solid although not a single character stands apart. There are many high-profile names in this film whose roles could have gone to up-and-coming actors instead. Edgar Ramirez’s character for example is practically a cameo. Jessica Chastain plays the same character that she played in Ava. Mace has no love life and spends her entire time on the job and when things start going well for her things are turned upside down. It’s upsetting because Chastain has more range than that. The same can be said for the other actors as well. Diane Kruger’s character Marie Schmidt has an interesting backstory concerning her father being a Russian spy in the BND and the agency not sure whether they can trust her. The story would have been a lot more fascinating if it followed her as the main character.

The action scenes and fight choreography is pretty decent with the characters using their brains in battle more than brawn. This makes the fight sequences feel more realistic especially when you have women taking down men who are twice their size. The cinematographer manages to keep the camera steady and keeps the entire room in focus so that the audience doesn’t lose track of what is going on and where the characters are.

While there is enjoyable action and great actors, overall The 355 is as generic as it is forgettable. The film checks all the boxes in terms of diversity and inclusion but fails to deliver on anything else. It’s a rare situation where the final product is not the sum of all its parts. I give The 355 a Solid 5/10. This film would have been more suitable to release on the Peacock streaming service as I doubt it’ll recoup its budget.

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