What’s the Story: CIA agent Mason “Mace” Brown (Jessica Chastain) joins forces with a rival German agent (Diane Kruger), a cutting-edge computer specialist (Lupita Nyong’o), and a Colombian psychologist (Penélope Cruz) when a top-secret weapon falls into the hands of a group of mercenaries. Together, the four women embark on a breakneck mission to save the world while staying one step ahead of a mysterious figure who’s tracking their every move.
The 355 held the unique distinction of being the first new release of 2022. But did it look good enough to leave the house to sit through the latest spy thriller? No really. Usually, spy movies can be my jam and just a quick look at the cast already made it awesome, but the trailers have not impressed me whenever I see a movie. Suppose that’s enough for the low expectations. In that case, this is co-writer/director Simon Kinberg’s second directorial effort after the second-worst X-Men movie Dark Phoenix (who actually likes that waste of film?). Still, I went into this with an open mind since all I want is an entertaining Hollywood action movie. And just as expected, it’s nothing more than your typical, lousy movie to come out of January.
What always bugs me most with these action movies is that everything is centered around the type of generic plot to keep the momentum so uninteresting once it begins. It had a promising sign since I remembered reading that Chastain came to Kinberg about this concept a few years back and it would’ve made for something cool if this tried to be. Unfortunately, any resemblance of this, hoping to be the studio’s new answer to the Bourne franchise after it peaked with their third movie, pretty much failed to launch into excitement. If you’ve seen one spy movie, you’ve seen them all at this point.
And when a film like this has a sweet female cast in its presence, two of which are Oscar winners for Best Supporting Actress, that would be enough to be at least decent. Their performances were good and basically the sole reason for not calling this downright awful, but all five of them had me wishing they were in a better movie to use their talents to better use to have me care for their respective characters from scene to scene. They were just underwritten. But it’s not the actresss’ fault for why the movie is less than perfect since they’re trying their damndest with the action and everything else. Jessica Chastain is the anchor holding everything together; Lupita Nyong’o had the strongest emotional depth out of everybody; Diane Kruger knows her way around action better than anyone else as the German agent; Penélope Cruz’s character is actually a psychologist who gets caught up in this situation, and it was a wasted opportunity for Fan Bingbing since she doesn’t appear until 70 minutes into the runtime. For the time they shared the screen, I give this credit for acting alongside each other. And poor Sebastian Stan and Édgar Ramírez didn’t have anything to do, and when the latter was on-screen, I had to figure out if he and Chastain were in something before this. And they did: Zero Dark Thirty.
In reality, observing The 355 shows Kinberg isn’t cut out to be a director when this never captures anything riveting, along with these actors’ saddled on a generic script by him and Theresa Rebeck. This has the basics every espionage movie needs to have, including and more importantly, the “MacGuffin” our protagonist needs to get in their hands. But it tried to think it’s clever later on with a double-cross that wasn’t hard to predict. Seriously, the reveal itself wasn’t the least bit shocking, and it shouldn’t be to you either.
Not even the action was thrilling at all. Kinberg’s direction was nearly flat with all of them, and they weren’t the best edited either to make them memorable. The last set-piece was probably the most exciting, but that really isn’t saying much when it was all too predictable. The tension wasn’t there when the PG-13 rating got in the way, and that is the case with violence and gunplay appearing to miss the mark. And there was a point where I thought we were in the third act, only to realize this still had 54 minutes left. I stopped caring after that and wanted this to get to the credits so I could get to my evening dinner.
Overall, The 355 isn’t anything new. And by that, this talented cast is entirely wasted on an uninspired spy thriller that couldn’t get a pass on its forgettable story and bland action sequences. This is definitely a January movie that made little of an impression on me with an appeal of a two-hour television show pilot likely to get canned after a single season. I highly doubt this will get the sequel treatment as it shows Kinberg should take a long pause on directing.
Grade: (3/10) D+
The 355 is currently available on home release.