There’s the time old cliché that January is the unofficial dumping ground for major studios. Where all the unwanted, least desirable of studio releases go to die. The first major release of 2022, surprisingly, isn’t a horror film destined for an F cinemascore, but a spy thriller featuring an all-star ensemble of the best leading ladies in the biz. Unfortunately, The 355 feels like a throwaway January programmer that offers nothing new and fails to deliver any intellectual or visceral thrills.
Jessica Chastain is Mace, a spy working for the CIA along with her partner, Nick (Sebastian Stan). On a secret assignment to retrieve a mysterious hard drive that could potentially be used as a technological weapon, German agent, Marie (Diane Kruger) is also on the lookout for the drive, leading to a mix-up with the device falling into the wrong hands. Alongside Graciela (Penelope Cruz) a psychologist from Colombia and Khadijah (Lupita Nyong’o), a former MI6 agent, the women must join forces to reclaim the dangerous weapon all while being tracked by a mysterious women (Bingbing Fan).
Despite the star-studded ensemble, The 355 slogs it’s way through a trite and painfully familiar plot. With a script that offers thin characters, some astoundingly awful diaolgue and the kind of brain-dead spy movie clichés that feel more insulting than clever. The 355 is the type of film where a character will press a button on their phone causing a street-full of patrons phones to all go off in an instant. A painfully obvious third act twist is treated as something shocking whereas any viewer with a remote sense of reality can see it coming mere minutes into the opening act. Director Simon Kinberg, longtime producer of the X-Men franchise as well as The Martian, doesn’t show much confidence in his second directorial feature.
A film such as this, one with no surprises can still cruise by on sheer entertainment value of its action sequences, but Kinberg’s direction is largely incomprehensible. While the fight choreography is solid and the actors do bring the swift physicality required for the genre, it’s all smothered in shaky camerawork, bizarre digital zooms and haphazard editing. In the day-and-age of John Wick-inspired action, The 355 feels more in line with the likes of Taken 3.
The clear advantage going for The 355 is, indeed, its stacked cast. Despite the thin characterizations, Chastain and Kruger are playing essentially the same role, the commradere between the leads does come through quite well in a few sequences. Penelope Cruz’s Graciela isn’t a badass super spy, but a therapist with a family at home and Kinberg, alongside co-writer Theresa Rebeck, give Cruz a few chances to be charming which the Oscar-winner most defintiely sells, but others in the cast seem occasionally bored. Despite a fairly tense sequence that sets up the final act and gives The 355 some much-needed stakes, there’s not much excitement to be had.
While a Peaches needle drop over the end credits helps things go down smoothly, The 355 is devoid of any distinct faire or memorable set pieces to stand out.