The 355: The First Dud of 2022

(from left) Larry Marks (John Douglas Thompson, back to camera), Graciela (Penélope Cruz), Mason “Mace” (Jessica Chastain), Khadijah (Lupita Nyong'o) and Marie (Diane Kruger) in The 355, co-written and directed by Simon Kinberg. Photo credit: Robert Viglasky/Universal Pictures.

January is a month that studios typically use as a dumping ground for the not-good films and The 355 is no exception to the rule.

The 355 is billed as a fast-paced espionage thriller but it didn’t feel fast-paced nor much of a thriller. This film takes us to the likes of Paris, Morocco, and Shanghai. There’s a star-studded cast but unfortunately, they can’t elevate the material no matter how much they try.

The gist of the film is that a top-secret weapon falls into the wrong hands. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be an espionage film. Thus, CIA agent Mason “Mace” Browne (Jessica Chastain) has no choice but to team up with her rivals, German agent Marie (Diane Kruger), computer specialist Khadijah (Lupita Nyong’o), and Colombian psychologist Graciela (Penélope Cruz). All the while, they must stay ahead of the mysterious Lin Mi Sheng (Bingbing Fan). It really hits all the espionage genre tropes.

I’m a history buff and so I’m no stranger to studying the Culper Spy Ring–thank you, Brad Meltzer! This is where the film’s title comes from–the mysterious woman in George Washington’s spy ring. We have no idea who she is. Over two centuries later, many female spies refer to one another as 355 in her honor. The film title also honors all the women in the industry that are barely even recognized for their craft. The irony of it all is not lost on me. We’re still living in an era when so few women are directing studio films. You would think a woman would be directing this film, right? The answer is no because Simon Kinberg directs The 355. I can only wonder what this film would look like with a woman directing it. Alas, we’ll never know and this is a shame.

Simon Kinberg last directed Dark Phoenix, a film that I was probably overgenerous to when it came to my review. Listen, I’m not one to tell someone whether or not they’re good at the job but The 355 just isn’t a good film.

Universal did not hold press screenings for the film. Instead, they sent press a screener link for reviewing purposes. If not for the Omicron variant, maybe sitting in a theater would have been able to hold better attention. In watching from home, this film could not keep my attention at all. Honestly, part of it is my own fault for thinking it would be a good film. We go through this every year. Sometimes, a January film might actually be good but more often than not, they are the worst of the bunch. It’s sad because the film has a solid pedigree in terms of its cast and I loved Smash when it aired on NBC several years back.

I watched this film from my apartment and I could have turned it off at any point but didn’t. You reach a point in the film where you’re like, well, I may as well just finish it even though I should probably just turn it off and go to bed already. The cold temps in my apartment didn’t help favors either so if it’s not a good film, it’s a struggle to watch. To benefit the most from watching, I would have needed to see the film in theaters. However, even if a press screening were offered, I’m back to 2020 protocols given the highly contagious Omicron variant.

DIRECTOR: Simon Kinberg
SCREENWRITERS: Theresa Rebeck and Simon Kinberg
CAST: Jessica Chastain, Penélope Cruz, Bingbing Fan, Diane Kruger, Lupita Nyong’o, with Édgar Ramirez and Sebastian Stan

Universal releases The 355 in theaters on January 7, 2022.

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.