By Chezelle Bingham, Film and Television Subeditor
We’ve all seen an action film: filled with guns, cars and, more often than not – men (take the James Bond or Mission Impossible franchises, for example). Simon Kinberg’s star-studded film The 355 pinpoints this final quality and turns it on its head: providing his audience with a glamorous action film led by a group of women.
Such a premise sounds interesting, but with Black Widow (2021) hitting cinemas only a few months prior, it seems that The 355 arrived just a little too late. The film follows a rather predictable spy-film plot: five women, all working with different government agencies, are brought together to retrieve a device that, if fallen in the wrong hands, would likely cause the end of the world. Dramatic, I know. The result is your classic win-lose-win plot, with the agents’ frequent failures bringing a considerable amount of tension to the screen. I won’t spoil it, but the final conflict scene had everyone in the cinema gasping.
From Paris to Morocco to Shanghai, the five agents trot the globe to locate their precious device, encountering a fair amount of unnamed bad guys on their way. The film’s action scenes are simple and rather unremarkable, with hand-to-hand combat and guns and all of the other classic this-seems-a-little-unbelievable action tropes. One specific qualm I had with the movie is that the motivations of the ‘baddies’ are extremely vague - why exactly do they want the device? Fair enough, it has the ability to crash planes and turn off all the lights in a room, but what exactly will this achieve for the villains?
The 355 brings together some of the world’s most talented actresses in the forms of Jessica Chastain, Lupita Nyong’o and Penelope Cruz and, as always, they shine in their roles. Chastain arrives in the form of Mason, a CIA officer who leads the film capably, Nyong’o plays the brilliant Khadijah, a former MI6 agent, and Cruz stars as Graciela, the nervous DNI psychologist whose skittishness made for some of the most amusing moments in the movie. The grand trio are joined by Diane Kruger and Bingbing Fan, who play German BND agent Marie and Chinese MSS agent Lin Mi respectively and, although Marie is perhaps a little too relentless and Lin Mi lacks screen time, the two are impressive in their roles.
Whilst all the actresses in the film are as remarkable as always, Sebastian Stan’s villain is not. Playing the predictable double-agent Nick, Stan is mediocre and, quite frankly, more than a little annoying in his role. I couldn’t help but think that he was trying just a little too hard to be your ‘Bond villain’ type when really, he has the scare factor of a mouse. (Also, could anyone tell me why he kept tilting his head? Does he think that makes him look more threatening?)
Despite its occasional flaws, there are still moments of excellence in The 355, several of which provide a comedic atmosphere to the film. Some of the film’s best scenes are the simplest: involving the five spies just sitting around drinking and discussing who their ‘first’ was (First kill, that is). Similarly, the auction scene in the second half of the film was just as exciting as it was entertaining. In the end, it seemed that it was the remarkable chemistry between the five women, and not the action, that made for the best bits of the film.
There is nothing in particular that is bad about The 355. In fact, the movie is pretty likeable if you don’t think about it too much, but it definitely is not as revolutionary as it would like to be. Then again, perhaps not every film needs to be.
Featured Image: IMDB
Did The 355 live up to your expectations?