Movie review: “The 355” by Jessica Chastain

Photo: Photo credit: Robert Viglasky / Universal Studios

No actor working today is haunted by the strong female character like Jessica Chastain is haunted by the strong female character. You know the type – a distant, hyper-competent exterior hiding a case of formative trauma, and no time for something as frivolous as romance unless it leads to betrayal or tragedy. To be a woman who works as an actress is to embark on a continuous and exhausting quest for heavily written material, or at least not plagued by lingering stereotypes. Chastain is not exempt from this struggle, but the more power she has over the roles she chooses, the more she is drawn to those who, in their attempt to counter sexist stereotypes, have created a whole host of new ones. The character she plays in the female spy drama The 355, a project she came up with and produced, is a die-hard CIA agent who shows up happily beating up a colleague at Langley Gymnasium when a new mission arrives. Mace is a loner whose life revolves around her work and whose only confidant is her partner and best friend Nick (Sebastian Stan), with whom she falls in bed just before their supposedly easy surgery. goes wrong and seems to leave him dead. .

I make this sound lower than it actually is. The 355 isn’t that a total disaster – how can that be, as her cast includes Lupita Nyong’o as Khadijah, a tech scholar who is formerly from MI6, and Penélope Cruz as Graciela, a psychologist working for the Colombian DNI? But its monotony is somehow worse than a big failure, as if its goals were only to prove that a group of the most famous women on Earth can come together to make such a mundane and boring action movie. only men. The 355 was directed by X-Men: Black Phoenixby Simon Kinberg, who wrote the screenplay with Smash creator Theresa Rebeck, and he’s really terrible with the fight sequences, which is a real problem in a movie that has a lot of it. The sets are cut into barely readable pieces for the purpose of disguising the stuntmen, the punches obviously seem drawn, it is often difficult to know where the characters are in relation to each other during chases, and in a way. or another, these globetrotting badasses are all made to look awkward when carrying a pistol.

Kinberg’s only other director credit is for the aimless X-Men: Black Phoenix, in which Chastain played the villainous Vuk. Its total lack of affinity for this kind of material testifies to the film’s contradictory objectives. Although they have assembled an ensemble of Fox Force Five international stars – Diane Kruger and Fan Bingbing complete the international ensemble as German BND member Marie and MSS agent Lin Mi Sheng – The 355 is not a stylized exercise reveling in the fabulous personality of its cast. Aside from a few nifty costumes on Nyong’o, there’s surprisingly little sensory pleasure, let alone the pleasure you would get from a Bond movie. The film aims to be something closer to Bourne, with its stolen motorcycle chase sequences and an entire middle streak set in Morocco, but it has none of the kinetic brilliance of Paul Greengrass or, failing that, of the choreography that has made David Leitch and Chad Stahelski’s more recent films so thrilling. The 355 is decidedly thrill-free, though its characters pursue a technological MacGuffin capable of crashing airplanes and bringing down computer systems, they weave their way through their respective pieces of backstory as if it were ‘a chore to stray.

Mace faces the loss of the only person in his life. Graciela worries about her husband and her children at home. Khadijah has a partner who really knows her old life on the pitch. Marie (Kruger) has problems with the father that she turned into itself like a traitor. And Lin Mi Sheng (Fan) is the kind of personalityless embodiment of Chinese power who sometimes appears in potential blockbusters now despite feeling like insulting everyone involved. The script includes vulgar phrases as if it were compulsory: “We can do it easily, or we can do it the hard way,” Mace tells a suspect before she and the other women interrogate and torture him. . “That’s the thing with partners – they get killed, or they kill you,” Marie intones during a lull in non-action. None of this is as painful as the coda, when the film delves into the girlbossery it previously mostly bypassed, with Mace telling an enemy that the identity of Agent 355, the spy who worked for George Washington during the American Revolution, remains unknown because “someone knew his name, they just didn’t want the world to know”. The 355 is, ultimately, a film about how women are underestimated in their role of using violence to support their respective states, and its climax is that Mace triumphantly sends someone to a black site. after beating him by drinking his alcohol straight away. She’s not like other girls, you know? Yaasss.

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About Victoria Rothstein

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