Cast: Jessica Chastain, Penelope Cruz, Fan Bingbing, Diane Kruger
Director: Simon Kinberg
Well, here we go again. It’s the opening weekend of 2022. We just got off the back of huge blockbusters and Oscar contenders, so how do we usher in the new year? With a dud. It doesn’t matter the year, January will always be the graveyard of studio mistakes as they try to recoup pennies on the dollar of whatever project gets relegated to this part of the year. The thing about The 355 is it isn’t as bad as what we usually see at this time of the year. It had all the potential in the world to actively challenge the stereotype of January movies, but ended up falling a bit short. The performances of Cruz and Lupita Nyong’o in a stacked cast can’t overcome the predictable story and borderline unwatchable action sequences that litter The 355 for all of its bloated 124 minute runtime.
The plot follows Mason “Mace” Brown (Chastain), a CIA officer who has been tasked with retrieving a special hard drive that could destroy the world if it falls into the wrong hands. Understanding that she cannot do this alone, she recruits women from agencies all over the world to help her with this task since they would all be in danger if this hard drive was acquired by a crime lord. I’ll have to start off with the positives, I was pleasantly surprised with the performances of Cruz and Nyong’o. Cruz plays a Colombian psychologist named Graciela Riveria who has absolutely no experience as a field agent. This ends up becoming the source of comic relief as she has no idea what to do in these dangerous situations and is completely out of her element. She’s not an agent or a killer, so Graciela provides a reaction that almost all of us would have if we were placed in a similar scenario. Nyong’o on the other hand is easily the most believable agent out of all the members of this crew. She’s intelligent enough to create calculated plans that work out for this group and is physical enough to take on the henchmen that plague their path to success. I think there’s a strong argument to be made that it’s obvious that the two actresses with the most acclaimed body of work are the ones who end up carrying the film, so I think it just goes to show what a natural level of charisma can do regardless of the surrounding issues that this movie has. Speaking of which, the storyline of this movie is the most cookie cutter and rehashed action plot imaginable. Just a simple and safe series of events that doesn’t challenge or engage the audience in the slightest. Other than that, at least this movie could competently showcase the action scenes so we can get an understanding of how these fights are going. Instead, this movie is littered with quick cuts and shaky cam that make these scenes nauseating. I didn’t go into this movie expecting it to be precisely edited and shot like Atomic Blonde, but you have to give me something to work with here. This movie is a lot closer to Mile 22 in this department and is incredibly difficult to take in as a result of this. Kinberg has really struggled as a director and his sophomore feature seems to be a step in the wrong direction. I didn’t hate Dark Phoenix the way that so many others did, but I agree that it has problems and these problems aren’t fixed in The 355. Considering Kinberg writes these movies as well, you can’t even make the argument that he just picks bad scripts to direct and it’s not entirely his fault. He’s been able to get away with it in the past since his movies make money, but considering how poorly this movie did at the box office even for COVID standards, Kinberg may find himself in a tough spot moving forward. Outside of Kinberg, I think this may have adverse consequences for Chastain and Cruz as they campaign for their respected Oscar nominations. It’s not bad enough to shut them out completely, but in an industry centered around the idea of “what have you done for me lately,” this may be something that voters remember before they cast their ballots. It’s disappointing that Kinberg fumbled his opportunity yet again, but at this point I’m at a loss for what he can do to make something truly spectacular.
Overall, if Kinberg cut about 15 minutes out of the movie and tightened up the action sequences, he may have had something worth watching. But unfortunately The 355 continues to get in the way of its own success. It’s a shame that a good cast is wasted on such a lackluster script, and all it does is make sure that Universal starts off the year with a huge loss. Nyong’o and Cruz are the saving grace of this movie and prevent it from being a truly bottom of the barrel movie. After a phenomenal year of movies in 2021, it looks as though 2022 won’t start off with a bang, but with a tepid, mediocre womp womp. Kinberg has worked on enough major projects to realistically earn another chance based on his network, but when his films keep bombing like this one has to imagine that the goodwill he has built up is starting to run thin. Time will tell to see what he does to adjust.
Final Thoughts: Skip It