“The 355” is an action-packed spy thriller with a definite feminine side. It is from the “studio that brought you Jason Bourne” (as they say). So now in this case, they can deliver ‘Jessica Bourne’, or something along those lines. The actual female spies increase in number and they are not brainwashed assassin cut-outs. They are new stereotyped women leads playing the stereotypical male counterpoint roles. Move over Mister Testosterone — these ladies have arrived!
Mace Brown (played by Jessica Chastain) is a highly-trained CIA field operative. She is smart and tough and she backs down to nobody. When a Colombian Cartel gets a hold of some cutting-edge technology, there is a raid by the government Intelligence agents. One agent, named Luis (played by Édgar Ramírez), takes the disk drive full of dangerous Cyber-McGuffin tech. He plans to sell to the highest bidder in Paris. Mace finds out that she and her fellow agent Nick (played by Sebastian Stan) are going there to payoff Luis and get the Cyber-McGuffin device. Mace and Nick have had a romantic background, but first things first.
While in Paris, during the payoff, there is a German Intelligence agent named Marie Schmidt (played by Diane Kruger). Marie comes in and ruins the payoff, hoping to get the special Hard Drive of Danger. Everything goes wrong, and Luis escapes and Mace goes after Marie. Luis finds that a Columbian Intelligence has sent a psychologist / therapist out to find out why he took off. Her name is Graciela (played by Penélope Cruz) and she is not field agent. She has no real track record with guns and hand-to-hand combat. That’s gonna become very awkward…
Soon Luis is dead and the Cyber-McGuffin has been snatched. Nick went off to catch Luis earlier and now he is ‘reported dead’. But Mace gets an old friend involved, an ex-agent from British MI-6 intelligence. Khadijah (played by Lupita Nyong’o) is a computer whiz, and she will help to track the missing Cyber Weapon. ‘Deesh” will now work along with Mace, Marie and Graciela. The Columbian agent does not know much street level spy stuff. However she has a phone from Luis that can be used to track the Device. Also, she is a therapist — in case anyone is feeling blue and wants to talk…
They find the Device in Morocco, and are quickly able to apprehend the Cyber-McGuffin. Hey, it’s less than halfway through the movie and they can relax. It’s all over. Of course — it is not. The Device gets taken and the tracker is turned off. Now Mace, Marie, Graciela and Deesh are totally stuck. But they are not. They find ways to locate where it is going. Off they go to a Luxury Auction that has Secret Black Market Auction Goods! But first, they must put on the most slinky and sexy dresses that they can find. Ya know – like all the normal spies do…
They find that the Auction was set up by a Chinese Ministry official named Lin Mi Sheng (played by Fan Bingbing). But the real aim of the Auction was to gather high-quality data on all the known Bad Guys of the World. So who could be there working for one of Big Bads — one of Mace’s friends who was ‘reported dead’. But the female team of independent agents finds a way to snatch the Cyber-McGuffin Hard Drive of Death. That is until Lin Mi Sheng takes it back from them. But finally Mr. Reported-Dead gets it back for his Big Bad Boss. So the Lady Spies have gotten the Device for a second time and they lose it. Not the best track record here…
Now located at a luxury high-rise hotel in China, these woman are tracking the target once more. Mr. Reported-Dead is holding Lin Mi Sheng and the Doom & Destruction Device. The Group O’ Gals get the gang back together so they can assault the hotel room where everyone is situated. It is an explosive shoot-out with fisticuffs and more than one broken nail. Mixed Martial Arts also appears to have come into the picture when Lin Mi Sheng gets into action. Maybe she is more than just a Chinese Ministry official after all? No matter how many thugs are attacking them, they all seem to have met their match with Mace, Marie, Graciela, Deesh and Lin Mi Sheng.
“The 355” might remind you about that quote about Ginger Rodgers. She had to do all the same difficult dance moves as her partner, Fred Astaire. But she had to do them backwards, and in high heels! So, the same goes for this movie. All of the woman have mostly the same action beats as a male lead in an action movie. They might not need to fight moving backwards. But is quite a lot of cases they do similar violent action punches and kicks in high heels.
It seems to be all done in the vein of high fun. It is not “Charlie’s Angels” level of campiness. But it never has the brutal realism of a ‘Bourne’ movie either. It plays more like a James Bond movie, with all the female leads being both the ‘James Bond’ role, and also the ‘Bond Girl’. That means there are lots of nice picture-postcard shots of exotic locales and a never-ending stream of hoodlums to beat up and shoot up.
“The 355” is a pleasant spy story in an old-school James Bond way, and the cast is full of likable and charismatic actors. But they better hope it ranks higher at the end of the year…
Directed by: Simon Kinberg
Screenplay by: Theresa Rebeck, Simon Kinberg
Story by: Theresa Rebeck, Bek Smith
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Lupita Nyong’o, Penélope Cruz, Diane Kruger, Bingbing Fan, Sebastian Stan, Édgar Ramírez
Cinematography: Tim Maurice-Jones
Edited by: John Gilbert, Lee Smith
Music by: Tom Holkenborg
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Release date: January 7, 2022
Length: 124 minutes
MPAA rating: PG-13 for sequences of strong violence, brief strong language, and suggestive material