DIRECTOR: Simon Kinberg

CAST: Jessica Chastain, Lupita Nyong’o, Diane Kruger, Penélope Cruz, Fan Bingbing, Sebastian Stan, Édgar Ramírez, Emilio Insolera, Jason Wong, John Douglas Thompson, Hiten Patel, Leo Staar, Oleg Kricunova, Jason Flemyng, Sylvester Groth

RUNNING TIME: 124 mins

CERTIFICATE: 12A

BASICALLY…: A group of international spies (Chastain, Nyong’o, Kruger, Cruz and Bingbing) unite for a lethal mission…

NOW FOR THE REVIEW…

The ingredients are all there for The 355 to work: an impressive cast, a progressive concept, and a filmmaker who, although relatively inexperienced, has enough solid writing credits to at least justify a creative voice within the material. And yet, for all its attributes, the film never really comes together.

A major disappointment considering the talent involved, The 355 is simply your average by-the-numbers spy thriller that you’ll struggle to remember not long after seeing it, because so many other movies have done it all before in much better, more memorable ways that you’re wondering what exactly the point of this one is.

The film opens, as most spy movies tend to do, with the theft of a mysterious device that apparently has the power to do all sorts of technological damage including dropping planes out of the sky. The CIA sends agent Mace (Jessica Chastain, also a producer on the film) to Paris in order to liaise with Colombian agent Luis (Édgar Ramírez) who has the device in his possession for ransom, but she ends up having to deal with other international agents who are also after the MacGuffin, including German BND agent Marie (Diane Kruger), former MI6 operative Khadijah (Lupita Nyong’o), inexperienced Colombian psychologist Graciela (Penélope Cruz) and Chinese MSS handler Lin Mi (Fan Bingbing). The five women eventually decide to join forces and locate the device through a number of international locations, where of course they come under heavy fire from the bad guys who want it for themselves.

It’s nothing that you haven’t seen before; the heroes are exactly who you think they are, as are the villains – including one that is so blatantly obvious from the get-go – whose nefarious plans are no different to your standard baddie from a Bond knock-off. However, the thing about The 355 is that there is no distinct personality to set itself apart from so many of the other Bond-baiting spy thrillers out there. Director and co-writer Simon Kinberg (who also worked with Chastain on franchise-killer X-Men: Dark Phoenix) is not a strong enough filmmaker to give any of its formulaic action set-pieces a memorable hook, like a stand-out fight manoeuvre or a sparkling piece of dialogue, playing things far too safe and predictable and in the process wasting these great central actresses on roles that anyone could just as easily have played. The likes of Jessica Chastain, Lupita Nyong’o and Penélope Cruz are all stuck playing stock cut-outs of familiar spy characters who you’re not all that interested in following, despite all of them doing whatever they can to appear like they’re giving way more of a toss than they probably were. They’re all let down by a director who simply gives them nothing to do outside of the typical tropes that have been well-worn at this point.

Beyond the familiarity of the premise, this is a script that is perhaps too stupid to take seriously, because so many of the characters end up doing very dumb things and making an alarming number of mistakes that tarnishes their credibility. People in this movie end up trusting the wrong people, even when it is clear as day that they are people who should not be trusted at any cost, and instead of keeping a low profile like normal spies would do, they go on a major chase throughout cities waving guns around like they’re the most unsubtle agents in the world. Even the villain’s intention with the MacGuffin is no dumber than what the bad guys were trying to do in the oddly similar (plot wise) xXx: Return of Xander Cage, with using technology to bring down entire aircrafts onto people. So many of the surrounding details are underdeveloped, such as the notion that the world’s biggest governments are somehow in on the whole scheme, and how exactly some people know exactly where others are at a moment’s notice, leaving you not only confused but also without any emotional attachment to characters who do so many undermining things that it’s just not worth caring about any of them.

Watching this whole mess play out, you really do wish The 355 was better than it is. It’s making all the right choices in terms of casting bigger female roles, and adopting a more progressive way of thinking when it comes to certain gender politics in spy movies, but it’s still let down by a script which has no idea where to take things next and instead sticks all too closely to formula without adding anything new to it. A much better movie with this cast and genre can definitely be made, but The 355 definitely isn’t it.

SO, TO SUM UP…

The 355 is a disappointingly stock spy thriller that wastes its strong cast and progressive ideals on a bland and formulaic script that adds nothing to the conventions of the genre, and has little of its own filmmaking personality to stand out from all the other movies like it, rendering it an underwhelming, forgettable mess of a movie.

The 355 is now showing in cinemas nationwide – click here to find a screening near you!

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