The 355

Review by Rich Cline | 2.5/5

The 355
dir Simon Kinberg
scr Theresa Rebeck, Simon Kinberg
prd Jessica Chastain, Kelly Carmichael, Simon Kinberg
with Jessica Chastain, Penelope Cruz, Diane Kruger, Lupita Nyong'o, Bingbing Fan, Sebastian Stan, Edgar Ramirez, Jason Flemyng, John Douglas Thompson, Leo Staar, Raphael Acloque, Francisco Labbe
release US/UK 7.Jan.22
22/UK Universal 2h04

fan stan ramirez

Is it streaming?

cruz, chastain, kruger and nyong'o
There's plenty to enjoy about this high-concept globe-hopping thriller, which takes a witty, ramshackle approach to its by-the-numbers plot. But along with a badly underdeveloped script, the well-staged action scenes are incoherently shot and edited. This is a shame, because the high-powered cast is more than up for it, adding warmth and humour at every turn. So it's increasingly frustrating that the movie is so sloppy and unintentionally silly.
CIA operatives Mace and Nick (Chastain and Stan) are sent to Paris to recover a hard-drive that will be a doomsday device in the wrong hands. But their meeting with rogue Colombian spy Luis (Ramirez) is violently interrupted by German intelligence agent Marie (Kruger). So Mace turns to British cyber-expert pal Khadijah (Nyong'o) for help. Then all three women realise they want the same thing, so they team up with Luis' agency therapist Graciela (Cruz) to chase the device to Marrakesh then Shanghai, where they meet Lin (Fan), who runs her own private espionage group.
Because the script never establishes characters beyond the broadest strokes, it's tricky to get involved in the unfolding narrative. Dialog is painfully obvious, loaded with awkward exposition and overstated drama, although the skilled actors wrestle out subtext where none was written. They also do their best with the choppy, shaky chases and fights. These sequences are cleverly conceived and performed with gusto, but they're far too clunky and disjointed to generate thrills.

Chastain pours her heart into the role, drawing dramatic resonance from thin air, including a rather sudden romantic interlude. And Kruger, Nyong'o and Fan all stir terrific layers into their energetic action physicality. Meanwhile, Cruz is quietly stealing the film with the most intriguing presence as a wife and mother trying to avoid the hyper-violent mayhem. For a change, the male roles are utterly thankless, although actors like Stan, Ramirez and Flemyng are solid enough to overcome such ill-defined and inconsistent characters.

The title is explained in a throwaway comment about how America's first female spy was only known by her number. Clearly, this project has been conceived as a female-led franchise akin to Bourne, Bond or Mission: Impossible. That's badly needed, so it's annoying that this film is so lazily written and directed. These A-list actors are more than able to carry a movie like this, and their blast of talent makes the movie watchable. There may be enough interest here to generate a sequel, but without sharper, more complex filmmaking that's about it.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 5.Jan.22

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© 2022 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall