The 355

  • 07 May - 13 May, 2022
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Reviews

While X-Men scribe Simon Kinberg’s junky action thriller chooses not to reveal the meaning behind its truly forgettable title until the end, we’re going to start by explaining that The 355 is a reference to Agent 355, one of America’s first female spies, deployed during the late 18th century, real identity forever unknown.

The derivative, stitched-together plot focuses on an all-powerful piece of tech that can hack into pretty much anything, crashing planes, tanking power grids and creating chaos for whomever its owner wants. Mace (Jessica Chastain) is an agent tasked with bringing it in along with her colleague and best friend Nick (Sebastian Stan). But the plan goes awry and Chastain is left as a lone wolf, forced into partnering with agents from around the world to figure out what happened and who is to blame.

It’s every bit as generic as that sounds, with a hapless, first-draft script from Kinberg and playwright Theresa Rebeck that fails to introduce any surprise, suspense or humour, coasting along on its stretched star cast and good intentions. The genre still remains heavily male-skewed of course but simply replacing male action heroes with women and then standing back waiting for applause isn’t quite enough. There’s been a very slow inch toward a tad more equality of late, with recent female-led streaming efforts like The Old Guard, Kate and Gunpowder Milkshake easily putting The 355 in the shade. The film also can’t decide if it’s skewering the genre or conforming to it.

Films such as The 355 live and die by the quality of their action set pieces and while there’s a propulsive pace to the proceedings, there’s never quite enough genuine excitement. The fight scenes, of which there are many, are shoddily captured despite game performers and so the action has a numbing effect, confusingly choreographed and ultimately rather boring. Chastain, who recently gave one of her finest performances in The Eyes of Tammy Faye, is a bit flat and muted here without any eccentricities to play with and so doesn’t really convince as the charismatic, take-no-prisoners lead inspiring a ragtag bunch of agents to follow her. There’s not much of interest for Nyong’o, Fan and particularly Cruz to chew on and so it’s Kruger who steals it, stepping in for the originally cast Marion Cotillard, doing a lot with very little. No one expects intricate character development with a barebones film such as this but there’s barely an attempt to even differentiate the characters outside of their nationalities, a film about strong women that reduces them to nobodies.