January 9, 2022

Review: “The 355” Keeps the Bar Low for 2022

January is a well-known “dump month” for movies that studios just aren’t that confident in. Sometimes, that can work to a film’s advantage (like the upcoming Scream, which has been getting plenty of positive buzz and with little to no solid box office competition), but for every one of those there’s The 355, a big-budget studio flick destined to fail.

From the producer of the (somewhat) critically-acclaimed X-Men franchise and the director of the (definitely not) critically-acclaimed Dark Phoenix, Simon Kinberg, The 355 features a rather stellar cast in Jessica Chastain, Lupita Nyong’o, Penélope Cruz, Fan Bingbing, Diane Kruger and Sebastian Stan, and still somehow manages to be boring and uninteresting.

The main character, if there is one, is Mace Browne (Chastain), a CIA agent who goes off on her own to retrieve a drive that can provide access to all the world’s security accounts — a McGuffin if there ever was one. Throughout the course of the story, she teams up with other female operatives from foreign intelligence agencies to get the drive, and the story plays out pretty much like you would expect it to.

Conceptually, it’s a rather progressive story, so it’s a shame the execution is so lousy. It’s not even the fact that The 355 doesn’t have anything to say, it’s the predictability of it all. I predicted story turns forty minutes before they even happened, and that took literally all of the fun out of it. Everything I see her I’ve seen before in dozens of other spy movies, and bringing something new to the table is the only way I think this movie could have redeemed itself. Lord knows the trailers looked terrible, but as far as I’m concerned, there’s hope for a movie until it’s over, however bad it looks. There is, unfortunately, no hope for The 355.

If I were to look for a bright spot, I would mention how the acting isn’t terrible, but is only middlingly decent. The production design, costumes and set pieces are fun to look at, action is fine and there are a few moments intended to be shocking, but everything is so unremarkable that high praise is hard to give.

I wish this movie was “so bad it’s good,” but there’s so much bad here without the payoff of being fun to laugh at. Sure, I could continue to mention the wealth of talent being wasted here, but remember who made this movie, and the fact that it’s a January release; there was never a lot going for The 355. I wanted to like it, but it didn’t seem like the movie wanted me to — it’s so blatantly unoriginal that it’s nothing more than a tedious action movie hodge-podge. [Grade: D]

Director: Simon Kinberg

Writers: Theresa Rebeck and Simon Kinberg

Starring: Jessica Chastain, Lupita Nyong’o, Penélope Cruz, Fan Bingbing, Diane Kruger

Rated: PG-13 for sequences of strong violence, brief strong language, and suggestive material

Available: Theaters
Fun Fact: As the trailer indicates, the title of the film is a reference to Agent 355, the codename of an unidentified female spy who fought for the Patriots during the American Revolution.

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