Who is ready for a new January action movie? The month of January is notorious for being a dumping ground of movies. Many small and forgettable action flicks populate this month of the year. But this year, we have a big studio action-thriller filled with plenty of stars dropping for the start of the year. The 355 is a big-time action flick with plenty of stars like Jessica Chastain and Lupita Nyong’o with big name studio guy, Simon Kinberg, behind the wheel.
But the question is, does this film deliver? Kinberg does not have a lot of experience with directing (Dark Phoenix being his first) and unfortunately, it shows. There is a flatness to the film that zaps most of the energy out of it. This is a film that feels like it is going through the motions. There are action sequences, but they are shot with too many edits and don’t get enough time to really play out in a visceral or interesting way. Kinberg generally takes a serious tone with the story and that does payoff at moments that hit hard emotionally (but much of that could be attributed to the actors and how they sell it). Probably the best word to describe this film is that it is safe.
What is this film about? Well…that is a little complicated yet familiar. There are a lot of players in the film with five female agents who get introduced with five different governments to intervene with overt and covert antagonists all around. There is a lot to balance in Kinberg’s script (which he co wrote with Theresa Rebeck and Bek Smith). There is too much to flesh out in a meaningful way when trying to balance characters with the convoluted plot and trying to deliver action sequences along the way. There is of course a McGuffin that drives the story which is nothing particularly interesting. Then the film delivers a few “surprises” that you can see coming a mile away that you have seen in plenty of other films.
But what about this talented cast? Jessica Chastain is in the awards hunt now for one of her best career turns (as Tammy Faye Baker) but this one won’t grab too much attention. She is rock solid and delivers on the narrative beats laid at her feet. Lupita Nyong’o and Penelope Cruz each have some big emotional beats in the film, and this is exactly why you cast them. They each deliver motion and impactful moments that are certainly enough to pique your interest. Diane Kruger is the real wildcard in the film as she is more complex and greyer (making her a bit more interesting). Bingbing Fan does not get enough time along the way to make a real impact. BUT…if they make a follow-up with these characters all established, that might be a fun time. Sebastian Stan and Edgar Ramirez are both talented but where the script takes them leaves a lot to be desired. This is interesting because this is the general reaction to many female characters in action films. If The 355 focused more on that and played with that, it might have been more interesting.
So…is The 355 a new action movie worth checking out? Based on this talented cast, this should be a big win. But unfortunately, it falls victim to tropes and trying to set up too much. In a world where there are some all-time great action films being released in other franchises, this one will get lost in the shuffle.