‘The 355’ Review – An Explosive Fist-to-Face Affair

Synopsis:

When a top-secret weapon falls into mercenary hands, wild card CIA agent Mason “Mace” Brown (Oscar®-nominated actress Jessica Chastain) will need to join forces with rival badass German agent Marie (Diane Kruger, In the Fade), former MI6 ally and cutting-edge computer specialist Khadijah (Oscar® winner Lupita Nyong’o), and skilled Colombian psychologist Graciela (Oscar® winner Penélope Cruz) on a lethal, breakneck mission to retrieve it, while also staying one-step ahead of a mysterious woman, Lin Mi Sheng (Bingbing Fan, X-Men: Days of Future Past), who is tracking their every move.

Trust remains to be a terrifying and complex concept that only intensifies as you age. I mean it makes sense, no one wants to get physically or emotionally hurt so we can no longer blindly believe everything we see or hear. Trust is like glue, it binds you and other individuals in an unspoken contract for a certain period of time in hopes that no one involved falls victim to the other. And once that bond is broken too many times, we struggle to trust anything that seems just a tiny bit suspicious until unequivocally proven wrong. On the flip side, as we grow we also learn to trust things and people to be what and who they are. You can trust that a fast-food burger isn’t going to taste the same as a gourmet one, so don’t expect otherwise.

Moreover, you can be sure that if given the Infinity Gauntlet, Thanos is going to make a bad decision. Also, if you happen to own some sort of backyard zoo with a bunch of apex predators, you can trust that one day they act accordingly and take a pound of flesh.  However, we unconsciously trust more on a daily basis than we realize. We trust the drivers around us not to plow into our car, that the barista will serve us fresh coffee, that the pants you bought fit, and that the grocery store will have Cinnamon Toast Crunch. It takes more effort not to trust people, in fact, it’s exhausting. Undoubtedly, it makes perfect sense to be somewhat guarded, but don’t be afraid to take a leap- trust your gut.

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“James Bond always ends up alone.”

After another year of coughs and uncertainty, we should start 2022 with a rousing adventure. Directed by Simon Kinberg, The 355 is an action-packed spy thriller full of regret, deceit, a global threat, and a few big twists. Anchored by an all-star cast, the level of beauty is matched by its danger. In a genre filled with endless explosions and fire-fights to sophisticated cinematic art, this film falls somewhere in the middle. It features enough fisticuffs and armaments to sway those unsure of an explosive female-led fist-to-face affair. Additionally, its plot is elaborate enough to be a mainstay in your action movie rotation. While parts of the script may fall a bit flat, there is a realness that I respect. The combat is intense well-choreographed and reality-based. There are no superhuman feats or guns with limitless bullets, just fearlessness, a ton of guts, and years of training. Nevertheless, there is no shortage of guns or bullets. Also, technology plays a bigger role in the story than expected but in a way that’s exciting.

At times, the story feels like you’re watching someone play the Hitman video games, it’s very pleasing. With very distinct characters, there is a spy for everyone. There’s your reluctant covert cyber intelligence hacker, a demolitions expert with trust issues, a psychiatrist that just wants to get back to her family, and an agent that is full of anguish and is out for blood. While the film is plenty violent, I think it would’ve benefited from an R-rating to add to the realism. It has some heart and a few humorous moments, but most of all, there are great twists and a very shocking scene that’ll wake you up.

The ending is rather satisfying and it seems that it may have set itself up for a sequel. And if other action franchises are any indication, the next one is only going to be bigger and more exhilarating. I really enjoyed this monumental team-up as well as seeing Sabastian Stan as someone other than The Winter Soldier. With a tone and pace that keep things lively, there isn’t a dull moment to be seen. I had a great time with The 355 and learning what it stands for. It’s a great break from reality. Its rewatchability is medium-high.

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(from left) Mason “Mace” (Jessica Chastain) and Nick (Sebastian Stan) in The 355, co-written and directed by Simon Kinberg.
(from left, center) Mason “Mace” (Jessica Chastain) and Khadijah (Lupita Nyong’o) in The 355, co-written and directed by Simon Kinberg.

Pacing & Pop

The film begins with a bang and from then on, feet, fists, and bullets fly in all directions. I found the pace to be somewhat like the John Wick sequels. It doesn’t waste a bunch of time doing a deep dive into the organizations that the women come from. Instead, it gives you pertinent information to the task at hand then the ass-kicking continues. What popped for me was the combative and competitive nature of the relationship between Mace and Marie, I only wish it would’ve lasted longer.

Bingbing Fan (center) as Lin Mi Sheng in The 355, co-written and directed by Simon Kinberg.
(from left) Marie (Diane Kruger), Mason “Mace” (Jessica Chastain) and Khadijah (Lupita Nyong’o) in The 355, co-written and directed by Simon Kinberg.

Characters & Chemistry

Starring: Jessica Chastain, Penélope Cruz, Bingbing Fan, Diane Kruger, Lupita Nyong’o, with Édgar Ramirez and Sebastian Stan

While I thoroughly enjoyed the cast, I didn’t find that anyone’s performance particularly outshined the others. However, what did shine bright was the chemistry between everyone. Some of the best chemistry was between Mace (Jessica Chastain) and Marie (Diane Kruger). As they are cut from the same cloth, they tend to butt heads and occasionally point guns at each other. What also made for great screentime was Mace and Nick’s (Sebastian Stan) violently romantic cat and mouse game. I enjoyed Lupita Nyong’o as the tech-savvy Kadijah as well as the emotionally intelligent Graciela (Penélope Cruz). Not to mention, Bingbing Fan is a great addition as Lin Mi Sheng. Honestly, I think any one of the actresses could switch roles and they would still be great.

The 355 releases in theaters on January 7, 2022. Stay safe and enjoy.

Director: Simon Kinberg

Writers: Theresa Rebeck, Simon Kinberg

Producers: Jessica Chastain, Kelly Carmichael, Simon Kinberg

Executive Producers: Richard Hewitt, Esmond Ren, Wang Rui Huan

Rated: PG-13

Runtime: 2h 2m

Rating: 3 out of 5

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SV0s2S9reT0]

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