Sunday, January 16, 2022

The 355

♣♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

A Colombian drug lord decides to shift gears and has his son create a decryption program that can be controlled by just one person and wreak havoc across the globe. In an extraction mission gone awry, the technology falls in the hands of DNI agent Luis (Édgar Rojas) who tries to sell it for a measly $3 million to the CIA. Enter partners Mace (Jessica Chastain) and Nick (Sebastian Stan) who fail their mission to retrieve the device in Paris after the intervention of BND agent Marie (Diane Kruger) whose agency also wants the technology. Left without a choice, Mace is forced to seek the help of friend and MI6 cybernetics whiz Khadijah (Lupita Nyong’o) who is reluctant to get back in the field. DNI psychologist Graciela (Penélope Cruz) sent to help Luis also inadvertently joins the fray as the quartet find themselves skimming across the world and ending up working with MSS agent Lin Mi Sheng (Fan Bingbing) as they try to end their quest in Shanghai.

Personally, I enjoyed it. There is a smorgasbord of languages involved not just because of the differences in nationalities of the main characters but also thanks to the nonstop globetrotting happening here. Remember the good old days of Alias when Jennifer Garner’s Sydney Bristow would be jetting off to random cities worldwide to kick ass while in various disguises? This film felt very much like that, x5. But perhaps this is also what makes the storyline and the style look so generic and familiar. When it comes to that, either you contribute something new to the genre or you become a pointless addition.

Maybe it is safe to say that The 355 ended up in the latter category. It sure gives you an adrenaline rush here and there, but the plot is too predictable for its own good. While not devoid of action, you can smell the twist and the real big bad from a mile away. It’s as if Simon Kinberg felt lazy and just decided to rehash some spy films we’ve already seen before. Despite its shortcomings in this department, the movie’s ensemble cast does deserve some kudos for the evident dedication they have given to their roles.

The tension between Chastain’s Mace and Kruger’s Marie is perhaps the best aspect of this film. Their banter and chemistry are enough to make you stay to finish the movie’s two-hour run. Nyong’o is the obligatory tech whiz, although she also gets to fire some guns but less on the hand-to-hand combat. Cruz’s Graciela is more of a comic relief yet also serves as the soul of the group. She gets the least action of the five but is not deemed totally useless. Fan Bingbing’s exposure is so minimal and her presence is barely felt despite her character being pivotal to plot development.

As mentioned, the storyline is too cliché. It always starts with a dangerous piece of technology that can be used to unleash chaos upon the unsuspecting world. And then you are introduced to your heroes/heroines who will save the day. There is always a team member who can hack systems and shit to make storytelling more convenient. There is always a team member who is crass and not a team player. There is always a team member who is an emotional mess. You get the drill. As mentioned, this is not a film that you haven’t already seen before.

In the end, The 355 is a decent spy thriller, action-packed and serves as an impromptu field trip around the world without leaving your couch or cinema seat. Want to go to Morocco? The film takes you there. Want to see Shanghai? The movie gives you some gorgeous drone shots and more. Romantic vacation in Paris? Sure. Enjoy those and just appreciate the ladies kicking ass. Perhaps enjoying the whole ride will make you forget many of the material’s flaws.

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