CIA agent Mason Brown (Jessica Chastain) enlists the help of a rival German agent (Diane Kruger), an MI6 computer specialist (Lupita Nyong'o) and a Colombian psychologist (Penelope Cruz) to help track a dangerous technological weapon that's fallen into the wrong hands.
Female-led action movies, or even more specifically, female-led spy action movies aren't anything new.
From recent efforts like 'Atomic Blonde' with Charlize Theron or 'The Villainess' with Kim Ok-vin, or going back to the likes of 'La Femme Nikita', it's a subgenre that's had varying levels of success over the years. With 'The 355', there's an exceptional cast assembled here, but the end results are decidedly not. For a cast that boasts this many Oscar winners, Golden Globe winners, and genuine talent, they've been utterly failed by a particularly daft script and flat, unimaginative action.
Simon Kinberg, the co-writer and director here, bears a huge weight of responsibility for this failure. You only need to look at 'Dark Phoenix', the final instalment of the storied 'X-Men' franchise before it was swallowed whole by the Marvel / Disney mothership, to know that he's simply not able to piece together any kind of action sequence. For all of the effort that the cast has gone through to train and learn how to fight convincingly on screen and so forth, the direction and editing make it look boring and cheap. Not only that, the endless chop-chop-chop of action is on par with something like 'Taken 3'.
With last year's 'AVA' falling flat on its face and 'The 355' destined for on-demand obscurity in the near future, it seems as though Jessica Chastain loves the idea of turning her hand to high-flying action but can never seem to make it land. The fault, mercifully, isn't in her own skills but rather in the choice of directors. In the case of 'AVA', having the guy who did 'The Help' to make a gritty assassin story and the guy who did 'Dark Phoenix' and made sure 'X-Men' stayed dead until Marvel could revive it wasn't going to help her.
Still, even if there was a more capable director behind the camera here, 'The 355' would still collapse under the dire tedium of its script. Trying to make a labyrinthine, double-cross ridden script winds up making it so convoluted that nobody will care by the end of it. As much as crisscrossing the globe might seem like it has an international flavour, it only serves to show much the scenery is trying to make things exciting when nothing else is. Sure, spy-action movies are a particularly daft breed and suspending disbelief comes with the territory, but 'The 355' asks far too much for so little in return.