The best thing that can be said about The 355 is that at least they managed to fire their weapons without killing the cinematographer.
The studio that brought you the Bourne films, and in case you don't know that's Universal Pictures, likely knows they've got a clunker on their hands here since this long-delayed motion picture is finding itself arriving in theaters smack dab in the middle of January amidst a pandemic redux.
Truthfully, the pandemic is the most exciting thing about The 355. It's about the only thing that feels dangerous in the movie theatre.
If you're hoping that The 355 will be will be a female empowerment action flick, you're going to be disappointed.
If you're hoping that The 355 is going to be the next great action franchise, you're definitely going to be disappointed.
If you're hoping that this A-list ensemble that includes two Oscar® winners and one Oscar® nominee will turn this into an early 2022 highlight, you're going to be way, way, way disappointed.
Basically, you're going to be disappointed.
Directed by Simon Kinberg, mostly known as a writer/producer of several X-Men flicks and as director of the abysmal Dark Phoenix, The 355 is a fem-centered ensemble action flick centered around five women from five different countries forced to figure out how to work together after a hard-drive capable of massive world destruction falls into the wrong hands. It's the kind of set-up we've seen a zillion times before and a set-up offered zilch in the way of originality by co-writers Kinberg and Theresa Rebeck. It's a film that tries to get by on the novelty of its female action lens, though apparently folks forgot that one of the reasons the Bourne films succeed is because we actually like Jason Bourne.
Jessica Chastain's Mason "Mace" Browne is essentially the leader, an American CIA agent whose portrayal here lacks anything resembling intrigue.
Then, there's Diane Kruger's Marie, a German spy with a passion for killing, Lupita Nyong'o's Khadijah, a former British MI6 agent with a specialty in tech crimes, Bingbing Fan's mysterious Lin Mi Sheng, and Penelope Cruz's Graciela, a gun shy Colombian psychologist who basically just wants to go home.
I mostly identified with Graciela.
The 355 takes its title from a real-life female spy who was essential to the American effort in the Revolutionary War, though there's nothing revolutionary to be found in The 355. It's a film that tips the major intrigue in its opening scenes when we see the hard-drive snatched and the wheels are set in motion for a series of poorly choreographed fight scenes with insipid dialogue and a surprising amount of sexism and misogyny.
I mean, seriously. How many stereotypes about female spies can we have? The lone mother among the five is by far the most inept one here. The male adversaries repeatedly, and I mean repeatedly, use the gender stereotyped traits of family and love as weapons against the women.
It goes on and on.
In case you have any doubt about a desire for a franchise here, a key first responder mumbles an unmistakable line in the moments after the film's key baddie has seemingly been seriously wounded. I quite literally laughed out loud when he said it.
Jessica Chastain is inexplicably also a producer here, while Kinberg proves unimaginative and severely lacking behind the camera. The film's strongest performance is likely from Diane Kruger who infuses Marie with a necessary grittiness that is fun to watch. Otherwise, these characters are paper thin and the male counterparts are so convoluted that one can barely tell them apart. It doesn't help that most of them also look like one another.
The ultimate problem with The 355 lies in its script, an embarrassing mishmash of action cliches and episodic action sequences that lack narrative cohesion and flow. There's never a moment where this story feels believable or these characters feel real. Individually, this is a dynamite A-list collection of all-stars. Collectively, this is an Adam Sandler flick waiting to happen.
Now then, let me get back to Grown-Ups 2.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic