Alice Oscura, Featured Writer
Plot: Various female international spies are forced to work together to prevent the most powerful cyber weapon from falling into a terrorist organisation’s hands.
Warning: Mild spoilers ahead
Review: The 355 is an American action spy film that was first pitched by actress Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty, It Chapter Two) to director Simon Kinberg while he was still in the middle of filming X Men’s Dark Phoenix, his directorial debut. Well, we all know how Dark Phoenix turned out so there’s no real surprise at the result here.
The only saving grace here for The 355 would be the top-tier female actresses that were chosen for the film including Penélope Cruz (Vanilla Sky), Fan Bing Bing (X-Men: Days of Future Past), and Lupita Nyong’o (Black Panther). The star-studded cast is led by Chastain as Mason “Mace” Browne, a CIA operative who becomes hell-bent on getting revenge for her partner who was killed during an op to retrieve a top secret cyber weapon that was stolen from a drug lord in Columbia during a raid by a DNI agent named Luis Rojas, played by the smouldering Venezuelan actor Edgar Ramirez (Yes Day, Jungle Cruise). Needless to say, such a dangerous weapon pops on key government agencies’ radar and now it becomes a vicious race to either own it or prevent it from falling into the terrorists’ hands.
One of the key issues with this movie is the two-hour runtime. It is way longer than it needed to be, so it spent a lot of time dragging and hanging onto too much emotional baggage of the main characters. It is commendable that The 355 tries to break the mould in a market where most spy movies are male stereotypes that are over-the-top violent and the females cast in said movies tend to be over-sexualized to appeal to a greater male audience.
But as a film whose main purpose seems to be about female empowerment and that there is strength in numbers if we girls work together, the chemistry in The 355 was way off between the female leads. The characters at times seem to come off looking too cold or forced in certain scenes. It also gets a bit messy through horribly timed jump cuts and ridiculous gunplay from operatives that seem to not know how to hit the broad side of a barn, with guns being aimed in one particular direction and the bullets magically appearing in another.
While the film is good on the suspense and still watchable, one has to remember that the audience is not daft. It is unnecessary to be that obvious with the dialogue and browbeat the female crowd. Unfortunately, in the hands of Kinberg, it falls utterly short in the rankings of movies that inspire us, females. There’s no comparison to movies like Wonder Woman (2017), which got it right the first time around by showing that a woman can be strong yet not lose their femininity or that their ability to love selflessly is not a sign of weakness but what makes us stand out from than the opposite sex in many ways.
The action sequences are kind of uninspiring despite the few cool moves during the fight scenes between Chastain and Diane Kruger (National Treasure franchise, Inglourious Basterds) as German BND agent Marie Schmidt. And the poorly written script weakens the cast and succeeds in pointing out the numerous flaws of the plot itself.
The final scene of the film is a bit campy and leaves an opening thrown in for a possible sequel. If placed in the hands of a female director then perhaps it may be redeemable. For now, the idea of a group of female international spies is not a bad idea at all in a climate where women are still constantly fighting to be recognised for their contributions to society. However, you need to try to achieve the right balance of the complexity of being a strong woman both physically and mentally but without avoiding the negation of the sultry mysterious side that makes the fairer sex all the more interesting.
Interestingly, on a side note Chastain mentioned during the final sequence of the film that during her training she was told the story of The 355 which was actually the code name for one of the first female spies for the United States during the American Revolution (her identity remains unknown). An intriguing part of real history to say the least and I hope to see it elaborated on in the future.
Alice’s Score: 4 out of 10
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Dark Alice has an old soul and a curious mind. I believe that anyone can be a hero and that the good guys should always win! I dislike cruelty to animals and think that they have far superior qualities to humans. My motto is there is no future without the past. I also have a weird penchant for Paranormal TV shows even though the slightest sound makes me jump. I enjoy writing reviews and throwing in fun facts to pique the readers’ curiosity. My ultimate goal in life would be to become a published writer one day. Read More