The 355 gets its name from the alias assigned to a still unknown secret agent who worked for the patriots during the American Revolution: She was one of America’s first spies. That tradition is ostensibly carried on by Mason “Mace” Brown (Chastain), a CIA agent who’s so dedicated to the job that she says she has no time to think about a family (or more interesting dialogue and characterization) during her first few scenes. She also begins the movie aggrieved since her longtime male partner and lover has been killed while on assignment in Paris. Worse, she’s been framed to look complicit in the botched operation that also led to an all-powerful digital MacGuffin to fall into the wrong hands.
In the fallout, Mace calls up her old MI6 buddy and veritable “woman in a chair,” Khadijah (Nyong’o). Khadijah is announced by the script to be the best in the world at what she does, which is primarily act like a hacker from an early 2000s thriller. In almost every interstitial scene, she furiously types some keys and then magically knows where the bad guys will gather for the next set-piece. There’s also a German espionage rival named Marie (Kruger), and the Colombian psychiatrist Graciela (Cruz), whose paths get tangled into Mace and Khadijah’s adventure—plus the third act arrival of the uber competent Chinese government given a glamorous sheen by Lin Mi Sheng (Fan).
The plot, like everything else with the script by Theresa Rebeck and Simon Kinberg, is a patchwork of clichés. However, this shouldn’t necessarily be a problem since who watches, say, Mission: Impossible for the plot? Ever since 007 puffed on a cigarette in a casino, the spy genre has lived or died by its style, and unfortunately Kinberg, who is also the director of the piece, fails to inject even a modicum of ingenuity or inspiration to his hopelessly exhausted tropes.
Kinberg, a longtime producer and screenwriter of 20th Century Fox’s latter-day X-Men films, helped oversee the creation of some of the better superhero movies ever made. He also had a more visible hand in some of the worst, including in the only other film he ever directed, Dark Phoenix (which Chastain also starred in). But even that 2019 disappointment had a couple of pretty impressive action sequences, which somehow makes The 355 all the more beleaguering.
This is an ugly and aggressively underwhelming production, with action sequences having all the wit and energy of a chase scene on CSI. Despite having the likes of a master like Lee Smith editing the film—the Oscar winning slicer behind nearly every Christopher Nolan spectacle, as well as 1917 and Master and Commander—there is a garish banality to every limp motorcycle chase, shootout, and fist fight here where copious amounts of coverage and heavy cutting attempts to hide that this is so many medium shots in shaky handheld punctuated by cheesy insert shots of knives or guns being drawn. In many of the shootouts, it even borders on impossible while trying to figure out who is shooting at what despite the “good” and “bad” guys being clearly drawn.
Thus it’s left entirely to the talented cast to muddle through the glaringly obvious plot twists and betrayals, and to mutter perfunctory dialogue about how if they don’t work together “your family’s world is about to end.” Nyong’o and Cruz do the best of the five at powering through these scripted indignities and finding something vaguely approaching the neighborhood of poignant.
Source: Den of Geek