The 355 Review

The 355
CIA agents Mace (Jessica Chastain) and Nick (Sebastian Stan) are sent to Paris in pursuit of a device that can hack any computer system. When the mission goes wrong, Mace must work with German agent Marie (Diane Kruger), British computer expert Khadijah (Lupita Nyong'o) and Colombian psychologist Graciela (Penélope Cruz) to save the world.

by Helen O'Hara |
Updated on
Original Title:

The 355

Producer and star Jessica Chastain and director Simon Kinberg team up here to give the world a charismatic, female-centric team of super-spies to balance all those male-led spy thrillers. You just wish the story had been as innovative as the casting, and the twists less screamingly obvious to even those without secret-agent training.

Chastain plays Mace, a CIA agent sent to retrieve the sort of crypto-doomsday device familiar from a thousand other spy capers. She and partner Nick (Sebastian Stan) are interrupted by the BND’s Marie (Diane Kruger) and the device is lost to bad actors, in the geopolitical rather than entertainment sense. Cue a globe-trotting quest, as Mace and Marie team up to stop a world war.

The 355

These spies are both fierce and fun: Mace is spiky and competent but not without her vulnerabilities, and Marie is — as she admits — a mess. Computer genius Khadijah (Lupita Nyong'o) is sensibly wary of returning to the field when asked to assist them, and the press-ganged Graciela (Penélope Cruz) is refreshingly terrified and just wants to go home to her kids.

It's all fun and games until, in its last moments, it succumbs to the increasingly common disease of sequelitis.

The film's best scenes involve these four holing up in a safe house to negotiate their boundaries and formulate a plan; it's weakest when they spout girl-power platitudes and when a deus ex China turns up to move the story forward six paces in a single bound in the final act. Not that Fan Bingbing's Chinese agent Lin is ineffective; she just feels grafted suddenly on. And, just as women have been asking for decent roles in male-led films for decades, it would be nice to see some nuance for Stan and Edgar Ramírez here, and more surprises in their arcs.

Still, it's all fun and games until, in its last moments, this film succumbs to the increasingly common disease of sequelitis, with a coda so determined to launch a franchise that it fails to be fully satisfying now. These women are effective and fierce; leave it to audiences to decide whether we want them on another impossible mission.

The chases, fights and fun bits of spy craft are brightly and pacily shot, but the 'twists' are barely surprising. These women, and these characters, deserve more.
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