Let’s talk about The 355.
Since we got past No Time To Die and could digest the Daniel Craig era, the hot topic has been who’ll be the next James Bond. One thing that has been mooted in the press, though probably just for the outrage clicks, is that we might get a female James Bond. I’m not sure who actually wants Jane Bond, but someone is obviously eager for it considering the amount of articles done on it. The main argument against it is that if there is interest in a female led spy movie, then just make an original female led spy movie rather than hitching yourself onto an already successful franchise. Well it’s time to put your money where your mouth is as we now have a female spy led movie with The 355.
Jessica Chastain works for the CIA but she is disavowed and forced to work alone after a mission gone wrong in Paris. Desperate to clear her name and find a mysterious device that can hack any system in the world, she teams up with female spies from foreign agencies to stop terrorists from getting the device and wreaking havoc.
This film has already flopped at the box office and without getting into the quality of the movie just yet, I know why. The name. This is the worst name for a film I’ve seen. This meant to be a cool, slick, action thriller. Yet the name is as dull as a lecture on the history of bath plugs. While there is a sound historical reason for this film to be called The 355, what it means is that you have a film that sounds more like the bus route between Sheffield and Chesterfield than cool spies doing cool spy films. I jokingly typed ‘355 bus route’ into Google just to see what came up and the top result was a bus route between Huddersfield and South Crosland. So it’s not the best start when the marquee makes you think more about going home than what might be waiting you inside the cinema.
On buses still, do you remember when BBC4 showed the entirety of a bus route? No seriously, they did that. Well that is far more interesting than this movie. This is just boring, and for so many different reasons. Firstly, the plot. Disavowed spy? A technological object that can do some sort of vague destruction of the planet relating around hacking science that is almost certainly wrong? Big twists that you saw coming from the moment they were set up towards the start of the movie? You have seen all of these clichés in far better movies than this yet they are all here in a turgid plot which fails to bring anything new to the table. Everything in this film has been done before and done in a far better way.
Then you have the characters. Bringing a group of great actresses together like this should be fantastic. The scenes between the likes of Jessics Chastain, Lupita Nyong’o and Penelope Cruz should absolutely pop off the screen considering the talent and personality they all have. Instead they are just there. I suppose. Do you remember when female action stars were still very novel so you could just make them into a badass, have no other character traits and that was fine because it was just so rare to have a lady beat some people up? Well this is 2022 and while equality hasn’t been reached, we’ve had a lot of female action stars and you can’t just get away with the bare minimum anymore. And this is barely the bare minimum. These characters are not an attempt to replicate human beings, they are vessels to move the plot forward. No more, no less.
I actually want to add how bad the introduction for Jessica Chastain’s Mase is. If you’ve seen a spy movie movie, you’ll know a common introduction to the lead is that we get to see them kick some ass at the start. There’ll be an unrelated mission to the main plot, or one which is softly linked or will merely kick off the big problem, which is mainly there to show how god damn good our main character is at his/her job. There are notable exceptions, like Casino Royale, but for the most part this is a welcome cliché which gives us a really cool scene while establishing the credentials of the lead. We don’t get that here, with the first scene being the reveal of the device, which is plenty dull but whatever. In the first mission of Mase, she fails it and misses so many shots that she’s like me asking girls if they fancy a drink in a bar. It makes her seem so bad at her job and makes it hard for the audience to buy into her as a capable spy.
And then there’s the action. This could be the saving grace but this is also dull, if not just plain bad. Did you think that now that we’re in 2022 that we’d no longer have to deal with Jason Bourne style shakycam? Because while The Bourne Identity is now 20-years-old (Enjoy feeling old you berk), it’s legacy lives on with so many badly imitating it’s action scenes. This is another that when fists start to fly, so does the camera and whatever I was eating. I really enjoyed the ice cream sundae I had during the trailers too. Thankfully, the gun fights are blandly shot rather than badly shot, meaning they are ok. I will take ok from this movie.
All of these problems are down to the director, Simon Kinberg. You may remember him as the producer of the X-Men films who turned his hand to directing for Dark Phoenix, I.E. The X-Men film so bad that it make The Last Stand the superior film about the Dark Phoenix plotline, something which made comic book fans across the world have a simultaneous aneurysm. And having had the misfortune to see both films, it’s easy to see what Kinberg’s problem is as a director. He has a complete inability to put any energy into his movies. Technically, there is little wrong with his direction. The shots are well done, everything is lit so I can see what’s going on and the plot moves at the pace you’d expect it to. But it has no creativity or excitement. I doubt when crafting this movie that Kinberg ever had that zeal of excitement where he ran through the corridors of the studio to find the cinematographer to tell him about the exciting idea he had. He never spent all night working out how to convince the studio bigwigs to stump up the money for a mad stunt that would be amazing to watch. He did the base shots to do to make sure you have a shot in the bank, then called it for the day. No creativity, no excitement, nothing to thrill an audience but probably a lot to keep the bank manager happy until they realise no one is coming to see the paint by numbers movie.
The 355 is a very boring movie. I can’t say it is badly made or has galling errors in judgment that just make it baffling to deal with it. I just know that it’s a film that makes you look at your watch a lot. It’s a film that fails to elicit any kind of emotion other than the one which makes you wonder what level of the social contract your breaking if you start watching TikTok in the cinema screening and if anyone would care because they aren’t watching the new Spider-Man, they’re watching The 355 and the feud surrounding the Council of Men is far more interesting. This will be forgotten until I come back to do the Top 10 Worst Films of 2022, I remind myself it exists because of my notes and I duly plop it around 6th place.