“The 355” has exactly one thing going for it: the ridiculously talent-heavy cast of A-list lead actresses. It includes Jessica Chastain, Penélope Cruz, Lupita Nyong’o, Diane Kruger, and Bingbing Fan. They’re all spies, in a spy caper, chasing a MacGuffin in the shape of a cellphone that, like the One Ring, can rule the world.
Chastain plays Mace, a Krav Maga-and-guns wielding, married-to-the-CIA agent (she’s played a few of these in her career). Lupita Nyong’o plays Khadijah, an MI-6 spy specializing in anything that’s electrical and technical, who’s got a boyfriend but gets sucked back into the life for that cliché one last mission.
Next up is Marie Schmidt (Kruger), a ruthless German agent with a penchant for going off the reservation. She’s initially at odds with the rest of the women, trying to get her hands on the all-powerful cellphone MacGuffin.
Then comes Graciela (Cruz), a mom who’s often on the phone with her kids. She’s not a spy but a psychiatrist working for her country’s (Colombia) spy agency.
Not trained in spy tradecraft, fighting, and weaponry, she also gets sucked into the on-going mêlée, and is in constant damsel-in-distress mode, which, since it’s Penélope Cruz, is very fetching.
Finally, there’s Lin Mi Sheng (Bingbing Fan), the Chinese beauty with staff weaponry skills who makes her appearance late in the film.
What Goes On
There’s lots and lots of chasing of the Jason Bourne type you know well: dashing through crowded marketplaces, throwing debris and people and motorcycles into the path of the pursuers, running down into subways, jumping tracks, fake-outs on trains, etc.
The ubiquitous double cross is easy to spot, the guy who was supposed to be dead is not dead (“Oh him again,” eye-roll) , and the one person you’d think wouldn’t nail the bad guy with a well-placed .357 magnum blast is so obviously the obvious choice for that hoary twistaroonie, that you’d normally yawn.
And yet you don’t yawn, even with the way-too-long running time. Why? Well, there’s surprisingly just enough tension and, unsurprisingly, there’s such an abundance of female beauty that a certified hetero cisgender man such as myself, who’s got the requisite degree of male toxicity that I enjoy the violence of American football and spies shooting guns, cannot help but be captivated enough to dismiss the boredom gathering like lint at the edges of my consciousness. These are hoary showbiz ploys after all: Send in the clowns. Or the showgirls.
Not much else. The women mostly claim to have various trust and daddy issues but after a bit of bonding they’re immediately a sisterhood of babes, and you have the unfortunate feeling they could be back.
I’d wondered about whether, with this cast, there might be some kind of “women of the world unite to get rid of bad men” communism-inspired Hollywood subterfuge going on, but it doesn’t really have that feel to it. It feels more like a bad Avengers movie where all the superheroes just happen to be beautiful women—beauty is sort of a superpower after all. This feeling probably stems from the fact that director Kinberg has made a few superhero movies.
The cast, aside from all being physical specimens, are all also world-class talented and can sell this foolishness. So “The 355” is a comic book and that’s fine; it’s all been done better and done worse—it’s just a question of the degree of your need to waste your time with mindless entertainment thoroughly devoid of nutritional value.
It’s not a movie to see in the theater; it’s basically what you channel surf into late at night and keep half-watching while checking your Instagram while simultaneously reading a more interesting magazine article about rock-climbing, while also checking that eBay bidding war on the $8,500 HD Softtail Slim with 4,560 miles, and then also Googling the occasional actress in “The 355” because you suddenly have a deep and abiding need to know what she looked like three years ago.
And really, it’s this particular state of being that is the zombie-fying, soul-sucking culprit that some of us need to watch out for. If you watch this movie, you’ll probably find yourself in this state. If you raise the quality of your leisure time, you’ll never watch this movie.
Director: Simon Kinberg
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Lupita Nyong’o, Penélope Cruz, Diane Kruger, Bingbing Fan, Sebastian Stan
Running Time: 2 hours, 2 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Release Date: Jan. 7, 2022
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars