REVIEW: Star cast unable to salvage below average ‘355’

If you like McGuffin hunts, then “The 355” might be the perfect movie for you.

Jessica Chastain stars as Mace in “The 355,” a CIA agent tracking the location of a device that can practically hack any computer system in the world, from transportation programs to weapon launches. After the death of her field partner, Mace doubles down on her efforts to recover the device.

Those efforts bring her in contact with other agents from several intelligence organizations. The agents include Graciela (Penelope Cruz) from Columbia, Lin (Fan Bingbing) from China, Marie (Diane Kruger) from Germany and Khadijah from England (Lupita Nyong’o). While they are at odds to begin, the agents eventually decide to work together.

The term generic can be thrown around sometimes in reviews, and it’s certainly showed up on this website before. But, wow, if there was ever a movie where the term generic would perfectly apply, it’s “The 355.”

Everything about the film, from the characters to its plot devices feel like they were selected by a spy movie algorithm. Moments ranging from a betrayal to a triumphant moment for Graciela, who is the least experienced agent, are entirely predictable, and the scenes in between feel like they’re just going through the spy movie motions without any of the fun.

This is true with the antagonistic elements, too. The film’s McGuffin, which is this device that can magically control basically anything, is just such a lame thing to bring these characters together. For spy movies like this, one hopes for a more creative threat. The same can be said for the film’s villain, they are simply not memorable.

That’s not the worst thing in a team-up flick, though. Sometimes the drama of a group coming together and learning to work with each other can make up for a basic villain story. Last year’s “Suicide Squad” was a good example of that.

Unfortunately, there’s not much entertainment in seeing these characters come together as a team. By the end of the movie, it’s hard to really be begging for more adventures of the 355.

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Courtesy Universal Pictures.

All of the main characters, other than Graciela, just sort of blend together after a while. Sure, Khadijah is set apart slightly for being the “tech one,” but more or less, it’s just a group of stereotypical agents.

The main characters here lack charm and humor, while collectively, the team is devoid of camaraderie.

The film’s loose tone likely plays a factor too. There are times where “The 355” seems to want a more serious approach, with some ruthless deaths and heinous terrorist attacks.

However, the film doesn’t entirely show these moments. Because of the PG-13 rating, the film feels somewhat tame, so the more serious moments don’t land like they should. Yet the movie is also noticeably missing more fun elements, like one-liners and such.

The movie is in this weird middle ground, too serious for a fun, PG-13 romp, but too tame for a hard hitting, intense spy thriller.

There are a few action segments that do catch one’s attention at the very least. The gunfights and gadgets do hit some genre notes that action fans can appreciate. However, even then, much of it feels dated. This is true with the filmmaking, right up until the last shot where a character vanishes as a bus goes by.

It wasn’t a good sign that during the screening, there was a gentleman about four seats away who kept falling asleep (I could tell because of the snoring). That’s the unfortunate truth of “The 355,” despite its star power and action, the film just doesn’t engage an audience the way a good spy movie should. 2 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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