There is a lot of action but less excitement in The 355, a production launched with great fanfare at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival that Universal is now releasing with a minimum of fuss. The idea for a female-led spy thriller was dreamed up by producer and star Jessica Chastain while serving on the jury for the Cannes competition the year before, sparked by billboards lining the Croisette promoting potential blockbusters. , mostly starring male leads. The urge to put kickass women in charge of change is commendable, but the traveler’s result suggests the pitfalls of starting with packaging rather than inspiration from storytelling.
Given the genesis of the project, perhaps the biggest disappointment is that instead of putting a woman behind the camera, Chastain recruited Simon Kinberg, whose extensive credits as producer and screenwriter are more impressive than his only previous directing job, in the 2019. X Men franchise entry, Dark fenix.
The bottom line
Slippery but joyless.
He co-wrote The 355 with playwright Theresa Rebeck, who has a long history with television police proceedings, from NYPD Blue to Law and order: criminal intent. But its poorly drawn characters and often logistically unsound plot mechanics make this an unlikely gamble to bring the energy of the spinning wheel into Bond and Bourne territory, despite the upbeat ending scene the film leaves behind. door ajar for the aftermath.
The title is a nod to the codename of a real-life female agent who relayed key information about British troop movements to American generals who served under George Washington in the Revolutionary War. The goal, by extension, is to bring recognition to the ignored women who work behind the scenes in all kinds of fields. In this case, it is women who put themselves in danger to protect the rest of the world.
The material includes a basic feminist perspective, from the hard-learned lessons of women who place their trust in the wrong men to the shortsighted disdain of a villain who scolds his colleague for being outbid by “a bunch of girls.” But the true backbone of the story is female solidarity, even women who start from adverse positions discover the benefits of uniting their strengths and resources for a common goal.
That goal involves keeping an advanced technological device out of reach of the enemy. When Colombian intelligence officer Luis Rojas (Édgar Ramírez) seizes a data key that can access and shut down any closed system on the global network during a deal that goes wrong, he sees an opportunity to prepare for retirement by selling the cyber weapon to the public. INC.
Mason “Mace” Browne (Chastain), a hot-blooded loose cannon, is sent from Langley to Paris with fellow agent Nick (Sebastian Stan), a close friend who went through training with her. Their relationship has been strictly platonic, but since they pose as newlyweds in Iowan, Nick gives her the romantic moves. Although Mace doesn’t want to spoil the friendship, his resistance lasts for about a minute, undermining the main character by putting childish vulnerability in the way of his professional instincts.
Naturally, the mission doesn’t go as planned. German agent Marie Schmidt (Diane Kruger) snatches the bag she believes contains the device and parallel chases ensue, with Nick chasing Luis on the surface while Mace chases Marie into the subway tunnels. An unfortunate victim raises Mace’s emotional expectations, who brings in his former MI6 ally Khadijah Adiyeme (Lupita Nyong’o), a computer hacker who has given up spying for a quieter life of romantic bliss.
Meanwhile, the Colombian psychologist Dra. Graciela Rivera (Penélope Cruz) is sent by her government to put the rogue Luis in order and return the cybernetic weapon to them. But before she can get him out of France, they are attacked by armed thugs working for the most colorless mercenary in recent memory (Jason Flemyng). At one point, a character notices that, unlike the Cold War or the War on Terror, cyber warfare pits them against an invisible enemy. But that doesn’t make the bad guys here any more interesting.
Since both Mace and Marie were unable to retrieve the device for their respective intelligence organizations, they are forced to stop beating each other and form a team. Horrified by all the shooting and violence, Graciela just wants to go home to her precious family. But her fingerprint recognition on a tracking device and the target now on her back force her to accompany her.
As much as the film advocates for female empowerment, the separation of characters based on their family and romantic affiliations, or the lack of them, it seems a bit reductionist.
Mace has always been a lone wolf and meets her partner in Marie, whose fiercely lonely nature and reluctance to trust anyone were set in stone when she discovered at age 15 that her father was a double agent working for the Russians. That makes her the meatiest of the characters, and Kruger’s scowling physicality on paper makes her the most dynamic presence in the thriller. All of the actresses bring considerable charisma to the film, but Rebeck and Kinberg’s script doesn’t overshadow them. More humor in the brief bonding moments that mark the fast-paced interludes would have been a great help.
The story jumps from France to Morocco, where women wear the literal cloak of female invisibility to their advantage in a crowded market. But treacherous and underrated antagonists mean the device keeps eluding them, eventually showing up at a dark web auction in Shanghai. The glamorous high rollers art event topping that offering allows for a classy costume makeover (hooray, wig and high heel fight scenes!) And 007-style gadgets with jewelery cams. The auction also brings out an enigmatic figure in Lin Mi Sheng (Fan Bingbing), who appears to be one step ahead of women to an explosive climax at a luxury hotel.
Kinberg handles the fast-paced action skillfully, with muscular camera work from Tim Maurice-Jones, a propelling score from Tom Holkenberg, and busy editing from John Gilbert and Lee Smith. The fight choreography isn’t exactly inventive, but it’s useful enough, with Chastain, Kruger, and Fan in particular showing off some sharp moves. Everything is quite visible and not without suspense, but the characters reveal too little depth or emotional complexity to make us worry too much about their losses or their hard-fought victories.
By the standards of recent action led by women like Widows, Wonder Woman, The old guard, Black widow Y Birds of prey – not to mention longtime Asian favorites like The heroic trio – The 355 It is a number for pedestrians.