The 355 (2022)

Quick synopsis: Spy shit happens. But with women.

I was looking forward to this, it looked stylish, slick, and fun. It had a great cast so it’s sure to be good. There’s one thing I didn’t notice before seeing it, something which would have affected how I went into it: From the director of Dark Phoenix. Obviously, that’s not all the director has done, he also wrote the 2015 Fantastic Four movie. If I knew that, my expectations would have been much lower, and I wouldn’t have been quite as disappointed.

It’s just so bland. It basically seems like the kind of film that post-2018 Bruce Willis would star in and go straight to streaming services, and not even one of the good ones. This is basically “What if Mission Impossible: But Vagina?”. It’s bringing nothing new to the table, nothing fresh, nothing exciting. It seems to want to have its cake and eat it, mocking James Bond films in one sentence and then taking a military plane to a gala the next, all in new clothes, new wigs, and futuristic tech.

It’s a shame as some of the performances are good, but if you came in after watching the trailer, and wanted a film of all these bad-ass women teaming together, you’re going to be disappointed. They spend a lot of time not liking each other, and one isn’t even introduced until the closing section. It NEVER feels like a group movie, it feels like a Jessica Chastain movie, featuring four other people. The narrative is focused almost entirely on her. So when she’s in conflict with another character, WE’RE in conflict with them. It would be like if the first Avengers movie focused entirely on Iron Man, and was also the first film in the franchise, oh and if it ended with “we probably won’t see each other again but we might”. The ending is in the trailer btw.

That’s how the trailer ends, an image they’re hoping will stick with you, so you know all 5 of them will end up on the same side, and alive. In the film it’s almost entirely pointless, the guy has been drugged and is about to be taken to a foreign prison. So why did they need all 5 of them there? By this point, he’s the head of the CIA, and they’re escaped criminals from different spy agencies. If one person sees them enter the house, alarm bells will ring.

It also spoils that his character didn’t actually die at the start. Although we know that anyway, if a character is killed but we see neither the death nor the body, they’re not really dead. And if they’re the main character’s partner in a cop/spy movie, they’re secretly a double agent who has betrayed them. So it’s not really a shock when he comes back, it’s expected. It would be more of a surprise if he was still alive. That’s the basic rule for spy films.

The other rule for spy films is that the action set pieces need to be entertaining. This fails that too. The geography of the fight scenes are confusing, the editing is too choppy (although there’s one piece of editing which is GLORIOUS where it cuts from someone being hit to a knife chopping a tomato), and they’re all ultimately rather boring. The characters don’t showcase themselves through the action either, there’s no uniqueness to the way people fight so everything looks the same. There’s no storytelling through the fight scenes, they’re just fight scenes. Compare that to the action scene in Shang-Chi between Shang’s parents, that was a fight that told us who they are, and developed their relationship through action. This, the only story is “shit gets blown up”

I mentioned in my review for Belfast that I thought the secret screening was this. I am very glad it wasn’t, I would have been disappointed to have seen this early. I’ve already forgotten most of it.

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