Directed by: Simon Kinberg
Premise: Women from different national spy agencies join forces to stop a doomsday weapon from falling into the wrong hands.
What Works: The 355 is a team-up movie that brings together female spies of various nationalities and professional specialties. Jessica Chastain plays a hotheaded CIA agent with a personal interest in the case while Diane Kruger is cast as a German BND agent who butts heads with the American. They contrast with the more level headed British MI6 technology specialist played by Lupita Nyong’o. The cast is rounded out by a Columbian DNI psychologist played by Penélope Cruz and a Chinese strategist played by Bingbing Fan. Each character is generally well defined and given specific personality turf. Penélope Cruz in particular impresses because her character is an office worker and not a field agent and she struggles with the danger and stress that have been unexpectedly thrust upon her. As a team-up picture, The 355 shows some promise as the first chapter of an ongoing franchise. The women coalesce into a team who are potentially interesting to watch if they were put in a better story.
What Doesn’t: Everything about The 355 is generic. Each of the principal actors are skilled enough to distinguish their characters but everyone fits into a familiar character type that we’ve seen in other action and espionage thrillers. The visual style of The 355 is generally flat and the action sequences are serviceable but nothing in it comes close to the standard set by John Wick and Atomic Blonde. The story is a stock espionage narrative. Someone has developed a device that can cause airplanes to fall out of the sky and this team of spies must recover that technology before it is sold to terrorists. It’s a familiar scenario and in the rush to keep the device out of the wrong hands, the filmmakers never ask who the “right hands” might be. The villains are uninteresting mustache twirlers. They don’t have any ideology; they’re just bad people out to do harm. That reveals the shallow politics of The 355. In real life, the CIA and other intelligence agencies have a complicated and occasionally sordid history that hasn’t always been on the side of human rights or democracy. The 355 is explicitly a propaganda piece for the intelligence community and for the military industrial complex in general, with the lead characters spouting CIA recruitment platitudes.
DVD extras: Deleted scenes and featurettes.
Bottom Line: The 355 is a mediocre action picture. It sets up a potentially interesting cast of characters but it doesn’t do much with them that is creative or interesting. The film reiterates espionage movie cliches while acting as an apologist for dubious real-life institutions.
Episode: #896 (April 3, 2022)