Look at “The 355” and it’s hard not to pose a simple question.
Just wake up how would it be?
The film stars five actresses in a male-dominated genre – capillary espionage. Plus, Hollywood’s obsession with female empowerment fakes (Just ask Gina Carano on that subject…) is undeniable.
“355” focuses on the action to which it rightfully belongs. That’s the formula fare, no doubt, down to the canonized dialogue. Plus, veteran action producer and director Simon Kinberg (“X-Men”) knows the terrain as well as anyone.
Jessica Chastain leads the cast as Mace, a CIA agent who doesn’t play by the rules. Plus, she doesn’t have time for a social life. Talk about breaking, now shattered, new character ground!
Mace and her partner (Sebastian Stan) are on the hunt for a smartphone-sized device that can tame and control all the technological systems in the world. It’s a Bond-like MacGuffin, but it provides a plausible story for a change.
Find the device. Save the World. Simple, right?
Except for the double crossover which is standard in the spy game, but Mace has some help along the way. She teams up with a German agent, Marie (Diane Kruger), a former ally and computer expert named Khadijah (Lupita Nyong’o), and the team’s surprise player, Graciela (Penelope Cruz).
She’s a psychologist in her sights, but chances are she’ll be a quick study in the spy game.
Is that a trophy? If yes, you have never seen an action movie.
We also meet Fan Bingbing as Lin Mi Sheng, but to say anything about her character could make it onto the stage legit.
Kinberg offers several sets of early and frequent ingenious actions. He knows that the plot is a bit silly and the twists and turns are all the same. You don’t know who to believe here, another game “The 355” embraces like an auntie.
“355” could spark a drinking game based on all the action movie clichés unfolding before our eyes.
- Don’t trust the agency? Drink!
- Disobeying orders? Drink!
- An agent who loves his job more than any social entanglements? Fill in!
The screenplays are still slick with some clever developments and character personalities, making the action movie design just enough to draw us in. The fight scenes do the rest, with the stars delivering enough body blows without turning into caricatures.
Our heroes are wounded and bleeding. It’s strangely welcome in an age where Vin Diesel gets out of every “Furious” car crash without a scratch.
The stars took home not one but two Oscars to the party, and each managed to imbue their characters with some depth in the midst of the mayhem. Cruz thinks her character sells the best. She’s not a super spy but a doting mother trying to help her world-weary new friends. The film also gives her a wiser motherly spark, bringing extra depth to an uncomfortable scene.
It will be interesting to see how critics react when our heroines torture a suspect for information in the middle of the film. That tactic was used to steal TV’s “24” much grief. Does it generate the same outrage now that action heroines are doing the dirty work?
The story of a China is expected in romance, both in character rhythm and dialogue. That joke turns into moments of sobriety in the third act.
“We always do… we think everything is our fault,” Nyong’o’s character tells Mace. Other sequences show our heroines taking part in the meta chat.
““I ended that life”…everyone says it,’ one spy told another reluctantly to revert back to spying.
Then another note, “James Bond always ends up alone.”
Neither line did poorly, but it suggested a faster presentation and never blossomed.
“355” is rarely dull, knows exactly what to expect from a romp genre, and never speaks ill of its audience. It’s hardly ripe for franchise status, but as a diversion over time, we could do much worse.
Hit or miss: “355” clings to the spy movie mold with both hands, which is good news for those who enjoy action adventure.