MOVIE REVIEWS

REVIEW: Female-led spy thriller ‘The 355’ benefits from solid cast but suffers from predictability

Jan 7, 2022, 10:25 AM

SALT LAKE CITY, UT — The idea for The 355, a new female-led spy thriller out in theaters now from Universal Pictures came from a simple question that producer and lead actress Jessica Chastain asked herself while at the Cannes Film Festival a few years ago.

“The 355” from Universal Pictures opens exclusively in theaters on Jan. 7, 2022.

“I saw all the posters of the male ensemble action movies looking for financing and I was just, like, ‘Why don’t they do these with women?'”

“I felt like the film had never been done before in terms of taking women in espionage incredibly seriously and not making it cute or a like a joke.”

Part of what Chastain says is true. The movie does bring a solid ensemble of female characters together and certainly takes them seriously, but the central plot and many of the story twists of The 355 definitely *have* been done before.

THE STORY

Chastain plays Mason “Mace” Brown, a CIA agent who has to join forces with rival agents from other countries to get back a top-secret and highly deadly cyber-weapon that has fallen into mercenary hands.

Those agents include hardened German agent and demolitions expert Marie (Diane Kruger), computer specialist and British MI-6 agent Khadijah (Lupita Nyong’o), and Colombian psychologist Graciela (Penélope Cruz).  The team also has to stay ahead of a mysterious woman who is tracking their every move, played by Chinese actress Bingbing Fan.

In case you were worried, there are some guys in the film too, including the Winter Soldier himself, Sebastian Stan.

THINGS I LIKED

Like any good spy movie these days, the action takes place around the globe, from the cafes of Paris to the markets of Morocco to the wealth and glamour of Shanghai.  Director Simon Kinberg, who also co-wrote the script with Theresa Rebeck and Bek Smith, uses some of the locations to highlight how female agents can do their jobs in different and unique ways than we’re used to seeing men do it.

The casting for each agent was pretty solid, in my opinion, and the story choices helped me accept most of what their characters did and did not do during the movie.  Cruz’s character Graciela isn’t a field agent so it doesn’t require much of a suspension of disbelief when she’s awkward in the action scenes.  Kruger (National Treasure), Nyong’o (Black Panther) and Fan (many Chinese action films) are most believable in their moments, while Chastain is hit-and-miss (pun intended) in her stunts and fight scenes.

Though some of the plot twists will be obvious to anyone who’s ever seen a spy movie, Rebeck and Smith do manage to spring a couple of surprises as well.

WARNINGS

The 355 is rated PG-13 for language, suggestive material and violence and it does get a little vicious and intense at certain times.  The run time is just barely over two hours.  But there are some plot holes and decisions by characters that made me scratch my head and ultimately brought the movie down a little.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The title of the movie The 355, which might seem a bit weird, is actually a reference to a female spy during the American Revolution, known only as Agent 355, who helped America win the war.  It’s come to represent spies whose identities and accomplishments are never fully known to the public.

The 355 has some pretty cool action moments, and some gorgeous and talented actresses.  It’s worth a look if you like the spy film genre or are a fan of the actresses involved.

I give it TWO out of FOUR stars.  It is playing exclusively movie theaters.


Hopefully you & your family found this review helpful! Andy Farnsworth does a weekly “What To Watch” segment for the KSL 5 Today morning news show and also hosts the Fan Effect podcast for KSL NewsRadio. Check out his other in-depth reviews of movies and streaming TV series on KSLTV.com.

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REVIEW: Female-led spy thriller ‘The 355’ benefits from solid cast but suffers from predictability