Movie Review: The 355

Even after watching The 355, a title that’s only explained well into the film, it’s difficult to remember if it had any actual link to the codename for a Patriot spy during the American Revolution. It plays like a video game adaptation, testament to the film’s anonymous and bland handling, checking the boxes of a spy actioner but not doing much to distinguish itself beyond the concept of an all-female task force.

The 355 centres on wildcard CIA agent, Mason “Mace” Brown, whose name makes it seem as though there’s a tip of the hat to Candice Bergen’s role as Murphy Brown. Based on an idea for a series that Chastain suggested to Kinberg during the filming of Dark Phoenix, The 355 finds Mace in need of a special globe-trotting unit in a bid to save the planet when a top-secret digital weapon falls into mercenary hands.

Writer-director and producer, Simon Kinberg is best known for his involvement with the X-Men film franchise, switching over to a Mission: Impossible type vehicle with The 355. Thankfully while it features an all-female team of highly skilled agents, it doesn’t pander to the trademark elements of Charlie’s Angels. The stereotype of skintight suits and high heels are what The 355 is trying to undo, unleashing a straight-up espionage thriller without having to objectify its heroes.

The 355

“I suppose you’re wondering why I called this meeting…”

Another highlight of The 355 is its stellar ensemble, which features Jessica Chastain, Penélope Cruz, Diane Kruger and Lupita Nyong’o. Originally Marion Cotillard was attached to star but may have had the foresight to step aside, replaced by Diane Kruger. Having a crew of Oscar winners and hopefuls, you’d expect the film to leverage more dramatic suspense. However, it rarely slows down long enough to realise the immense acting talent of Chastain, Cruz and Nyong’o, who are quite simply wasted beyond the action. Having demonstrated their versatility over the years, the actors have enough physicality and skills to sell the action but it amounts to frenetic and passable rather than exhilarating.

Unfortunately, in spite of its A-list actors, potent ingredients and up to $75 million budget, The 355 falls surprisingly flat. Most of its problems can be attributed to a threadbare script, failing to add texture to its characters and peddling an uninspired and fairly basic plot. To make matters worse, there’s no clear antagonistic force, shapeshifting between a number of villains in a game of pass-the-bomb.

The 355 has some good ideas and moments but is so loosely engaging across the spectrum that it hardly seems worth the time. Beyond seeing an all-female team kick ass and take down bad guys in middling action sequences, it’s all quite underwhelming. As popcorn entertainment, there are enough stars and spy thriller tropes to connect the dots with a promising start but it simply skips along the surface and never truly sinks its teeth in.

The bottom line: Slight