The 355 Review

PLOT: A betrayed CIA agent (Jessica Chastain) teams up with a crew of other female agents to stop a top-secret weapon from falling into the wrong hands. 

REVIEW: It didn’t take long for 2022 to have its first dud, and sure enough, the much-hyped all-female spy epic The 355 is an abysmal attempt to launch a new franchise using the thinnest of premises. Take the Mission: Impossible series and the Bourne saga, throw them into a blender and give it a random twist (an all-female cast), and you get The 355, which sports a talented cast but gives them all nothing to do they couldn’t have done in much better movies. 

While an-all female-fronted group action flick is a fine idea, in the wake of movies like Atomic Blonde, Wonder Woman and even the divisive Birds of Prey, The 355 feels old-fashioned and generic, like a TV pilot released on the big screen. A passion project for star Jessica Chastain, she’s clearly trained hard for her big entree into the action world. Still, she’s let down by director Simon Kinberg’s lack of memorable action set pieces, with everything feeling cribbed from other, better movies. 

It doesn’t help that her character is saddled with a painfully familiar arc. She’s the tough CIA agent with no time for romance who lets her guard down for Sebastian Stan (as her agent partner) and, wouldn’t you know it, ends up betrayed and on the run. She quickly teams up with yet another betrayed agent, Diane Kruger’s intense German spy Marie, recruiting Lupita Nyong’o as Khadijah, an MI6 hacker who’s given up the spy game, and a Columbian psychiatrist (Penelope Cruz) with a link to Edgar Ramirez’ Rojas, who’s stolen a weapon they don’t want to get into the wrong hands.

You mostly can’t fault the acting. Chastain’s character suffers because she already played a tough CIA agent, to great effect, in Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty. She’s intense and physically able, but the role is one-note and dull. However, she does what she can and, as always, no one could ever accuse Chastain of phoning it in. Diane Kruger is more interesting as the tense German agent everyone suspects is a traitor. In her American movies, Kruger ‘s rarely as good as she is in Europe, where she’s widely regarded as one of the greatest actresses of her generation (watch In the Fade). Here, she gets to play a role more like the ones she does in Europe, which is a smart choice by all involved. At the same time, Penelope Cruz gets nothing to do as the psychiatrist, who doesn’t really get in on any of the action. She plays the boring, non-action character, which is a shame as Cruz deserves a nice action role. Of everyone, Lupita Nyong’o seems to have the best action chops, with her looking cool as hell in the guns-blazing finale. If anyone deserves to come out of this with some action bonafides, it’s her. Beautiful, emotional and capable of working a little humour into her role, she seems like a born action star, but Chastain gets most of the screen time and the major arc. 

One other troubling aspect of the film is that it was partially financed in China, so what’s the one government everyone can trust here? You guessed it – China, with Fan Bingbing, the agent who’s always one step ahead and the only one who’s not working on her own. Considering that this is Fan Bingbing’s first movie in four years, with her even vanishing from the public eye for a time due to tax evasion problems in China, this aspect of the film feels shoehorned in and left a bad taste in my mouth.

Whatever the case, The 355 isn’t terribly political – it’s just an action movie. But, where the film fails is that it’s secured an ensemble but given them very little to do. No one, except Chastain, who’s truly the lead, gets a lot of time to shine. Kruger and Nyong’o have a lot of promise as proper action heroines, but this isn’t their movie. Thus, it feels like less of an ensemble piece than a star vehicle. Again, this would be ok, if Chastain herself was allowed to stretch in terms of the character she’s playing or was given some cool action setpieces to participate in. Instead, The 355 feels like a would-be franchise-starter no one had enough faith in to put the money in that was needed to make it a legit action epic, with some fresh chaos. It’s an assembly line flick through and through, and the excellent cast isn’t able to save it. 

The 355, trailer, Jessica Chastain

The 355



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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.