“The 355” gathers some of the most skilled and electrifying actresses all over the world, then misuses them in a general and unmemorable action picture.
Jessica Chastain is one of them, and as a producer of the film, she led it from the beginning. The appealing point is easily seen here: A fascinating and globally well-known spy thriller where women can cooperate, kick-ass, and keep the day for a change. One of the content throughout “The 355” is the way how these characters escape from the pressure of supercilious mansplainers and really complete tasks. You don’t have to be a beautiful secret agent to associate with that dynamic.
However, that concept is one of so many factors in director and co-writer Simon Kinberg’s film that make audiences feel disappointingly half-baked. Apart from some characters’ features, there is not much to these women, and the points when they might show something more serious or significant about themselves are fleeting. The muscular body of the action scenes – the core of all films in this genre – is inadequate. The choreography and effort for directing the complicated chases and fight sequences are covered by shaky camerawork and short edits; therefore, this makes these moments more irritating rather than exciting.
The costume design is even flat. Chastain, Lupita Nyong’o, Diane Kruger, and Penelope Cruz, four well-known actresses of moderate craft are able to wear any kind of clothes with style and grace. Apart from a costly auction in Shanghai, “The 355” misses the chance to dress these women in gorgeous costumes when they commute from city to city, which would have boosted the sense of sparkling escapism. When it comes to Bingbing Fan, the fifth star of the film, she’s hardly there till the end of the film, in spite of that its marketing would hint otherwise.
After all, what they’re is the most boring of the MacGuffins in the script from Kinberg (“X-Men: Dark Phoenix ”) and skilled television writer Theresa Rebeck (”Smash,” ”NYPD Blue” ). It’s a flash drive storing a data key which can devastate with the touch of several keystrokes: shut electrical grids down and undermine financial markets, launch nuclear weapons, and send satellites falling from the sky. It doesn’t matter what it does—it’s the thing that puts the plot in motion—but this ensues to be a moderately ordinary bad-guy do-hickey. Because it’s so shapeless, you never really realize the threat of its possible danger.
At the beginning of the film, Mason “Mace” Brown, a hotheaded CIA operative by Chastain, and her partner, Nick (Sebastian Stan), present as newlyweds to meet in Paris with the Colombian intelligence agent who carries the device ( Edgar Ramirez is still not used). (Chastain and Stan, who earlier worked together on “The Martian,” are seemingly best friends who privately love each other, but they do not have good chemistry at all.) Kruger, as agitator German operative by Marie, stops it instead, creating a number of dizzying action sequences in the movie. Mace introduces her unwilling former MI6 pal, the excellent hacker Khadijah (Nyong’o), to discover its location. Nevertheless, the Colombian psychologist Dr. Graciela River (Cruz), is also involved in the fray; incredibly, she was dispatched into the field to look for Ramirez’s character and take him home.
Eventually, it becomes obvious that all of these women have to put aside their distinctions and cooperate to discover the device location: “They get this, they start World War III,” Mace says to Khadijah in one of the film’s many, many instances of clunky commentary. But before that, Mace and Marie have a fistfight relating to frozen seafood, which isn’t as fun as it seems. Additionally, the sequence where all of them stand around, shouting foolish dialogue, and pointing guns at each other before getting an uncomfortable easement, could not be arranged or shot more unskillfully.
Wasting Cruz’s intimidating presence and ability is one of the severe sins in this film. She plays the scared fish out of the water, enthusiastic to go back home to her husband and sons. As though her character’s involvement weren’t contrived enough, consequently she’s requested to be cowering and mild, which aren’t precisely her strength.
Moreover, there are a few moments that show how much better “The 355” can have been. In a scene, after a victorious achievement, all of them sit around to drink beer and talk about war stories, and the blossoming friendship on display makes you hope there was more of that. It’s also an intriguing idea when they decide to reject their male-dominated agencies, work on their own, and have to depend on each other for survival—like a more fierce version of “9 to 5.”
At one moment, Mace tells Khadijah: “James Bond never has to deal with real life,”. In an exchange that comes closer to something similar to realistic and relatable human experience, Khadijah responds, “James Bond always ends up alone,”. The idea which inspired Chastain in the first place is somewhere here: discovering common sacrifices of women when they choose career over family, and pursuing the compelling dream that we can have it all. But then the appealing, drum-heavy score appears again, swamping everything, and it’s back to the following shootout or outbreak.
Now available in theaters.