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Friday, January 07, 2022

The 355


The 355
is the kind of movie that the early days of January are made for.  It's a kind of workmanlike take on the Mission: Impossible formula focused on a group of talented actresses who don't get to show off much of their talent here.  I suppose the appeal is to get to see these women kick a lot of ass, but that simple pleasure is robbed from us by the shaky camera work and rapid editing the action scenes use.  I'm starting to miss the days when filmmakers had enough confidence in the stunt work to actually let us enjoy it.

The movie was dreamed up by Jessica Chastain, who stars and serves as the lead producer.  Unfortunately, she decided to trust her idea to co-writer and director, Simon Kinberg, who previously directed Chastain to one of her lesser performances in 2019's Dark Phoenix.  He does her no favors here either, having her play a personality-deprived CIA officer who goes by the name of Mace.  As the film opens, she's sent to Paris with fellow officer Nick Fowler (Sebastian Stan).  They're to pose as a newlywed couple in order to pick up the film's plot device, a high-tech decryption device that can take down planes, hack into any system, and in the wrong hands could bring about World War III.  Despite the fate of the world hanging in the balance, Mace and Nick have plenty of time for flirting and a PG-13-rated fling.  Naturally, things are not what they seem, and there's a lot of other people who are also after the device.  

One of these people are German BND agent Marie (Diane Kruger), who interrupts the drop off of the device, leading to the first of many unmemorable action scenes through the streets of Paris and the subways.  Funny thing about this movie.  The plot requires the characters to visit such far off places as Morocco and Shanghai, but we either see little of these exotic locales, or they look an awful lot like a set on a studio back lot.  Marie enlists the help of an old friend from MI6 to track down the device named Khadijah (Lupita Nyong'o), and when they find themselves in over their heads, they learn that they will have to team up with Marie in order to get the device and save the world.  Also along for the ride is a Colombian therapist named Graciela (Penelope Cruz), who is the "fish out of water" character, having never had to deal with espionage, and has a family waiting for her back home.  

These four women, along with a fifth who joins them late in the film (Fan Bingbing), make up the group of heroines who learn they can only trust each other, and that the respective people and agencies they work under and with may not have their best interests in mind.  The movie tries to keep its identity of its true villain a secret, but any audience member who understands the main casting rule of thrillers like this ("If a character played by a well known actor or actress is introduced, and then exits for a majority of the film, he or she is the one behind it all".) will have no problem guessing the identity of the person these women should not be trusting.  Along the way, the movie just kind of goes through the motions.  There's no reason why this movie needed to be made, other than people got paid to.  And aside from a brief scene concerning the women just relaxing and sharing drinks together, they never really get to create personalities or play off each other.



The 355
is the kind of movie that feels like it's been made with off the shelf parts from other movies, and it's been assembled competently enough (outside of the shaky camerawork), but there's nothing that stands out about it.  With studios struggling to get audiences to turn out for non-event movies at the theater, films like this won't help.  It's highly likely anyone who watches it will struggle to remember much when Spring rolls around in a few months, let alone by January 31st. 

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