Strong. Cunning. Powerful. Intelligent. These are all adjectives that the women of The 355 aspire to represent. Unfortunately, they’re bound to a film that’s best described as cheesy and clichéd. It’s a strong cast of talented actresses, brought together on screen for a spy, team up adventure. However, the film, which clearly hopes to launch a new franchise, fails to bring anything new to the world of espionage and high tech.
The story is simple. Generic. Various groups of people chasing after a McGuffin. In this case, the McGuffin is a computer drive, weaponized with a slew of vague capabilities. What it does exactly isn’t important or relevant to the plot. Bad guys want it. The good guys (or girls) have to get it first. In pursuit of this drive are Mace (Jessica Chastain), Khadijah (Lupita Nyong’o) and Marie (Diane Kruger). Spies from various different agencies with a common goal. Joining them is Graciela (Penelope Cruz), a non spy who’s forced into the mix through events beyond her control. Together they form an unlikely team that must save the world from impending doom. Typical spy stuff.
The biggest problem with The 355 is its inability to bring anything new to the genre. It is so reliant on the gimmicks and tropes of the past, that watching it feels like watching a cable television series from the 70’s or 80’s. It isn’t without its charms, but those charms wear thin rather quickly. In parts it feels like an homage to the classics. A throwback to the over the top ridiculousness of spy stories from the past. The ones where nearly every problem can be solved with a few strokes of a keyboard. But homage can only take you so far. While franchises like Mission Impossible are pushing the cinematic boundaries, The 355 feels comfortable gliding by on the coat tails of better films.
The cast no doubt went through training and preparation to play their characters. For the most part, they seem comfortable within their roles of action heroes. The action is a mix of ubiquitous shoot ’em up encounters and hand to hand combat. While the cast holds their own with the handling of a gun and the throw of a punch, the editing works against them. Primarily in the close quarters, hand to hand action set pieces. The camera shakes and the cuts are quick, jarring and unnecessary. Reminiscent of the trend that seemed to start with The Bourne Identity and has (thankfully) mostly died off. A well choreographed fight scene is like a dance. And when done well it can be the highlight of a movie. But The 355 doesn’t give the audience a chance to see what’s happening. To appreciate the skill and the intensity of the moment.
The 355 launches audiences into 2022 with a subpar spy thriller. One that doesn’t give its actors, or its characters, enough credit. When the spies are so bad at their job that they have to be reminded to cover their faces on a mission, the fate of the world (and the quality of the film) aren’t in great hands. I’m certain it won’t be the worst film I watch this year, but it just might be the most forgettable. 5/10