Director: Simon Kinberg
Cast: Jessica Chastain, Penélope Cruz, Bingbing Fan, Diane Kruger, Lupita Nyong’o, Édgar Ramirez, Sebastian Stan
Runtime: 2 hrs 3 mins
Released By: Shaw Organisation
Opening Day: 13 January 2022
Synopsis: From genre-defying blockbuster filmmaker SIMON KINBERG comes THE 355 – a fast-paced globe-trotting espionage thriller that brings together a dream team of formidable female stars. When a top-secret weapon falls into mercenary hands, wild card CIA agent Mason “Mace” Brown (Oscar®-nominated actress JESSICA CHASTAIN) will need to join forces with rival badass German agent Marie (DIANE KRUGER, In the Fade), former MI6 ally and cutting-edge computer specialist Khadijah (Oscar® winner LUPITA NYONG’O), and skilled Colombian psychologist Graciela (Oscar® winner PENÉLOPE CRUZ) on a lethal, breakneck mission to retrieve it, while also staying one-step ahead of a mysterious woman, Lin Mi Sheng (BINGBING FAN, X-Men: Days of Future Past), who is tracking their every move. As the action rockets around the globe from the cafes of Paris to the markets of Morocco to the opulent auction houses of Shanghai, the quartet of women will forge a tenuous loyalty that could protect the world—or get them killed.
Enlisting the help of Simon Kinberg, the writer behind numerous X-Men movies and helmer of the disastrous Dark Phoenix, Oscar nominated Jessica Chastain produced and led this female-centric spy action thriller which also doubled up as a star-studded blockbuster in a quiet January.
Penelope Cruz, Diane Kruger, Lupita Nyong’o and Fan Bingbing joins Chastain in this globe-trotting actioner which often passes off mediocrity as excitement. The movie opened with a Columbian drug lord being double-crossed by a criminal mastermind, Elijah Clark (Jason Flemyng). But amid a shootout, a valuable decryption drive is taken away by a DNI agent, Luis (Edgar Ramirez). CIA agents Mace (Chastain) and Nick Fowler (Sebastian Stan) is assigned to break a deal with Luis in France. But the deal is interrupted by a German BND agent Marie (Kruger) who is also after the hard drive.
Shortly after, a DNI psychologist with no field experience Graciela (Cruz) turned up at the door of Luis while Mace attempts to seek the help of ex-MI6 agent Khadijah (Nyong’o). On the other hand, Fan turns up late for the party, around an hour into the movie as an undercover MSS agent, Lin Mi Sheng. In short, these ladies must join forces to take back the hard drive before it falls into the hands of Clark and his ruthless henchmen.
Kinberg on his part clearly wanted this to be a double-crossing, triple-crossing spy thriller in the grand tradition way. A good old guessing game that keeps the viewers invested throughout. Unfortunately, Kinberg and his co-writer apparently lacks the literary skills to do so. Thus instead of churning out a smart, intriguing flick, the plot resorts to switching the location from France to Morocco and to Shanghai, throws in a couple of action scenes and stuff it with exhausting narrative to keep the movie alive.
The biggest fault or dead giveaway lies in the casting of Sebastian Stan. Spoilers ahead so be warned. The ambiguity of the character is pretty much obvious the moment he turned up on screen. The entire affair starts with the romantic/working relationship between Mace and Nick. However, Nick is supposedly gunned down by Clark shortly after. And when you cast a reasonably big name liked Stan and have him dead before the first act concludes, you know there is something sinister brewing. The excitement and anticipation is instantly killed off as this is essentially the movie’s weakest plot point.
Despite Kinberg’s best attempt at dressing up The 355 as a race against time action thriller, the movie suffers from a lack of memorable action choreography as well. Watching Mace and Marie throwing each other on the floor and despatching countless henchmen, villains that gets in their way turned out to be more tiring for the viewers than the stars themselves. Even the final confrontation lacks the dynamics and hair-raising stuntwork to make it work.
To be fair, Jessica Chastain indeed puts in lots of effort into her role as Mace. The same goes to Diane Kruger who completely rocks the movie in her relentless action moves. Lupita Nyong’o is OK as the movie’s resident IT personnel and Penelope Cruz and Fan Bingbing are mostly wasted in their respective roles. At the minimum, we hope their combined star power can help to sell some tickets. The biggest fault lies in Kinberg and his ultra-generic script and unimaginative direction. On hindsight, he should just stay on as a producer and leave everything else to more capable hands. Given the lacklustre scripting, we doubt there is a sequel happening even the ending promises more espionage from the girls.
(Girl power is letdown by generic scripting and action choreography)
Review by Linus Tee