Starring Jessica Chastain, Diane Kruger, Lupita Nyong'o, Penelope Cruz, Sebastian Stan, Edgar Ramírez
The only reason a new release hits theaters in early January, is because the studio — Universal in this case — has lost all hope in the product and is dumping it among flashier awards contenders in a platform release. “The 355” is such a film. Sure, it has an all-star cast, two of which are likely best actress Oscar contenders for their work in 2021 — nominations are Feb. 8.
However, the “pedigree” behind this film — mainly its director — and the incorrect assumption the public want an all-female Bourne/Bond/”Mission: Impossible” is the real fallacy. The title refers to a secret female agent whose name is unknown, but that detail is about as irrelevant as this film will become a week after its release. What opens like a bad 1980’s Stallone film only gets worse as the story plays out.
A new technological weapon (cliché) has fallen into the wrong hands (cliché) and female forces from various spy agencies around the globe must join together (cliché) to save the world (cliché). CIA agent Mace (Jessica Chastain) is one of the most dedicated agents because she has no personal ties. This dangerous new device, which can knock planes out of the sky with a touch of a button, forces Mace to team up with her German rival, Marie Schmidt (Diane Kruger). Schmidt is good at every aspect of her job at the BND German Intelligence — except when it comes to following orders. Filling out the squad is Mace’s former colleague Khadijah (Lupita Nyong’o), the technological spy expert, and joining on a technicality is Colombian government psychologist Graciela (Penelope Cruz).
One might have thought Chastain would have learned her lesson after the disastrous experience of collaborating with director Simon Kinberg (a producer that should stick to producing) on “X-Men: Dark Phoenix,” which ended the franchise. Instead, it was the double-Oscar-nominee who suggested to Kinberg there be an all-female spy film — apparently she missed the rejection of “Oceans 8” and the 2016’s “Ghostbusters”. The script and plot are so full of recycled action film tropes you can see every twist and turn coming before each reveal. If they were trying to be “Mission: Impossible,” it falls quite short on impressive stunts. If they were aiming for Jason Bourne, it misses the nuance, and it’s nowhere near as classy as those globe-trotting James Bond films.
The script says it is a “spy film” but what “The 355” really delivers is the equivalent of fast food cinema. You don’t dress like Carmen Sandiego when you’re trying to blend in and you don’t need to check-in with your Glam Squad before you kick a henchman’s ass.
Nearly every camera angle and every edit are all big, loud and overstaged. Kinberg might be good at organizing and getting great talent on a project, but he has no business shouting “Action.”
After “Dark Phoenix”, the straight-to-Netflix “Ava” and now “The 355,” I think it’s safe to say action isn’t Chastain’s forte. Instead of wasting your time with this garbage, watch Cruz in “Parallel Mothers,” Chastain in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” and let’s hope Nyong’o and Kruger’s new projects this year help us forget they were ever associated with this film.
Cruz and Chastain team up to ruin their Oscar chances in this discardable action flick.