The 355 Movie Review
A female-led action film that thankfully doesn’t hamfistedly force across its feminist messages, The 355 is a mildly entertaining but frustratingly generic spy thriller that fails to take advantage of its incredible cast.
Starring the powerhouse combination of Jessica Chastain, Lupita Nyong’o, Diane Kruger, and Penelope Cruz (six Oscar nominations or wins between them), The 355 is about four women from four different spy agencies who join forces to stop bad things from happening. Action ensues, betrayals occur, and other stuff happens, but what that stuff is really doesn’t matter because you’ve seen it all before. The story is adequate to piece together the action but otherwise unremarkable, and if you don’t guess who the “surprise” villain is in the first 10 minutes of the movie, you clearly haven’t seen nearly any other spy movie made in the last 30 years.
Yes, these women are left to flounder with a pretty forgettable story, though their individual characters are written just well enough that they are able to hold the ship together. The four have decent chemistry, and it’s not hard to imagine what could be if these characters were paired with the right material and the right filmmakers.
But that’s the problem.
The story is generic as they come, but worse, the direction is equally so, resulting in a bland end-product that makes you think of all those Liam Neeson action films from the last decade. The action, edited awkwardly to keep the violence at PG-13 levels (lots of people get shot, but very rarely if ever on screen), is vanilla, though what it lacks in quality it makes up for in quantity. Director Simon Kinberg, the producer behind a lot of great films but only the director of the forgettable X-Men: Dark Phoenix and uncredited quasi-director of the absolutely unforgettable Fantastic Four tragedy, just isn’t a very good helmer… the action looks stale, the movie lacks constant forward momentum, and not once does the movie make you feel as though you’re watching something that is even attempting to be special.
To its credit, The 355 treats its female leads respectfully by placing them in a serious action film with serious intentions. Too often lately, studios have attempted to make female-led films that attempt to pander to their intended audience with obnoxious winks and nods that ironically do more harm than good. The 355, by avoiding overtly feminist tropes, is a much better feminist piece as a result.
Still, it’s a shame it isn’t better made. The 355 needed to be a bit more fun, a little leaner (given the absolutely generic plot, why is this movie over two hours long?), and to pay closer attention to its action sequences to be worth the price of admission. As is, it’s a mildly entertaining but instantly forgettable reel of silicon.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.