With the talent involved in the new spy thriller, THE 355 should have been at least fun to watch. But as it stands – more like lays there – the tony likes of Jessica Chastain, Penelope Cruz, Lupita Nyong’o, and Diane Kruger seem lost amongst the multitude of adventure film cliches, flat dialogue, and over-edited action scenes. Cruz, playing a psychiatrist drawn into the intrigue, keeps complaining throughout, “I can’t do this” while mayhem and bullets explode around her. My sentiments exactly.
Writer/director Simon Kinberg, working with fellow scripter Theresa Rebeck, has done well before as a writer, producer, and director, but this is not a good way to start 2022. The script couldn’t be more cliché-ridden with twists and turns we’ve seen in dozens of films like this before. Kinberg’s directorial style seems too familiar too – like all those Simpson and Bruckheimer produced actioners from the 80s. Maybe if this was trying to make hay out of such tropes, but no, this movie by and large is treated with a seriousness that is a total buzzkill.
The story involves a hacking device that can digitally crash planes, collapse stock markets, and expose government secrets. Naturally, numerous spy agencies are after it including the CIA, MI-6, BND, and NIC, which brings spies Chastain, Nyong’o, Kruger, and doctor Cruz into play. Soon enough, they’re traipsing all over the globe, chasing this bad guy, and that double agent, but the only thing that feels fresh is the casting. Still, like the countless such roles played by Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Willis, and the lot, these secret agent characters feel just as dull, even if they’re played by sensational women. It’s all just fighting, shooting, and tossing off acidic one-liners. Little else.
The locations tend towards the ridiculously glamorous, but they’re all over-lit, giving everything a too pristine quality. And the action that takes place in casinos, parties, and five-star hotel suites is all the more unconvincing under such bright lights. The rapid-fire editing is there to distract us from the stars’ stunt doubles, but such tricks only give the action an even more chaotic feel that mars any sense of genuine context or stakes.
Nyong’o probably comes off the best as the techie amongst them who gets to spit out all the Q-style verbiage from a Bond film. Chastain has done this kind of role several times before and only shines in a subway chase where she’s stuck sneaking around in an atypical summer dress and corked sandals. Cruz is funny at times throughout, but she often looks like she wants to scold her agent for getting her into this mess.
One could go on about the other flaws in the film, like the evil conglomerate that can invade three spies’ homes simultaneously, yet can’t secure a perimeter in an “Evil Conglomerate 101” sort of way to save their henchmen’s lives. Suffice it to say, this film has far too many problems with its storytelling, character development, and any sense of purpose. Indeed, THE 355 is a spy adventure that ends up being all sixes and sevens.