Review: The 355

Score:  C

Director:  Simon Kinberg

Cast:  Jessica Chastain, Lupita Nyong'o Diane Kruger, Penélope Cruz, Bingbing Fan

Running Time:  124 Minutes

Rated:  PG-13

“Are you under control?”

It should have been a runaway success. Five beautiful women, clad with brains and brawn, banding together to thwart the plans of one misogynistic man with the intent to dismantle the world. The power to do so lies within a disc drive, the strength of its powers infinite. But what starts as an intoxicating spy thriller unexpectedly tumbles as Simon Kinberg’s The 355 squanders its abundance of resources on a story that isn’t compelling.

Jessica Chastain stars as a hard-nosed CIA agent, while Diane Kruger plays her equally tough and stubborn German counterpart. Lupita Nyong’o is former MI6 specializing in cyber security, while Penélope Cruz plays a Colombian psychologist with no field experience. Bingbing Fan, a third act entry, is an operative with uncertain loyalties. Wholly individual in their style and approach, the five come together for their shared goal of saving the world, going as far as to verbally state, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

Plagued by genre tropes from the onset, The 355 struggles to set itself apart from similar films, proving that while high-gloss fight sequences and visually stimulating international locales are easy to replicate, their presence isn’t always productive. Hell, even when the ladies, dressed in their designer best, repeat the iconic Ocean’s Eight stair walk, the effect becomes lost in the nostalgia, the film succumbing to those who did it first and better.

That is a perpetual flaw in Kinberg’s film. Outside of the diverse cast, almost everything we see we’ve seen before. And more times than not, it doesn’t live up to our memory. Instead, we witness a clash of scenes, mixed and matched where needed, that somehow formulate the bare bones of a second-tier story. The result is improved by a squad of brilliant actors, none of which deliver remarkable performances, though, in a world scathed by a pandemic, it could be worse.

But that too is a problem. During a time when our expectations are lowered, our hearts happy to be away from the couch, sharing an experience with friends and family, The 355 still disappoints. Bogged down in gender stereotypes, the film fails to maneuver itself away from the expected, most notably in its inexcusable obsession with the idea of a work/life balance.

Cited on more than one occasion, primarily in the direction of Chastain’s Mace, we get bombarded with discussions of romantic relationships and family (or, in her case, the lack thereof). Cruz’s Graciela can’t stop calling her kids back home, foreshadowing their impending danger, driving home the expected differences between a spy thriller involving a woman compared to the genre’s more explored male-led arcs.

Why do these women need a life outside of their work environment? Why is it imperative that their maternal instincts be triggered by family and children? And why must they possess a scorned heart to yearn for vengeance?

In short, there is no reason. There has never been. But The 355 feels it pertinent to its story. And with each check of the box, the film falls further down the rabbit hole of forgetful films. Kinberg leaves this story open for a sequel, playing on the “goodbye” from each surviving member. It might be best if there is another chapter that we skip forward to a reboot. Same cast, better story, better execution., The audience deserves as much.



About Stephen Davis

Stephen Davis
I owe this hobby/career to the one and only Stephanie Peterman who, while interning at Fox, told me that I had too many opinions and irrelevant information to keep it all bottled up inside. I survived my first rated R film, Alive, at the ripe age of 8, it took me months to grasp the fact that Julia Roberts actually died at the end of Steel Magnolias, and I might be the only person alive who actually enjoyed Sorority Row…for its comedic value of course. While my friends can drink you under the table, I can outwatch you when it comes iconic, yet horrid 80s films like Adventures in Babysitting and Troop Beverly Hills. I have no shame when it comes to what I like, and if you have a problem with that, then we’ll settle it on the racquetball court. I see too many movies to actually win any film trivia contest, so don’t waste your first pick on me. My friends rent movies from my bookcase shelves, and one day I do plan to start charging. I long to live in LA, where my movie obsession will actually help me fit in, but for now I am content with my home in Austin. I prefer indies to blockbusters, Longhorns to Sooners and Halloween to Friday the 13th. I miss the classics, as well as John Ritter, and I hope to one day sit down and interview the amazing Kate Winslet.