Simon Kinberg’s The 355 looks to honour a famous female operative from the American Revolution—codenamed Agent 355—with a modern, crowd-pleasing spy thriller with four women at its core.
The film follows CIA wild card Mason “Mace” Browne (Jessica Chastain) and colleague, Nick (Sebastian Stan), as they attempt to retrieve a deadly digital weapon before it falls into the wrong hands. The operation goes bust when German agent Marie Schmidt (Diane Kruger) gets in the way and in the resulting chaos, Nick gets killed. Mace then turns to cyber expert Khadijah (Lupita Nyong’o) for help retrieving the all-important USB, while also enlisting Graciela (Penélope Cruz), a Colombian psychologist whose help proves invaluable. Before long the group find themselves in Shanghai facing-off with another mysterious figure, Lin Mi Sheng (Fan Bingbing).
The globe-trotting adventure, written by Kinberg and Theresa Rebeck, is fierce, fast-paced and does its best to give its leading women—Chastain, N’Yongo, Kruger and Cruz—the full-on James Bond treatment. At one point the villain labels them just “a bunch of girls”, but this team of women really gives you a run for your money, as do the film’s well-choreographed stunt team.
What the film is trying to do, and quite admirably, is turn the trope of seductive spy side-pieces on its head. Here we have the mother, the girlfriend and the loner—all from different walks of life—using their wits and smarts to save the day (and the film). Instead of being reduced to the margins for the story, here they’re writing their own. While the film isn’t a monumental turning point by any means, one can admire what The 355 is trying to do and appreciate the feisty girl power within.
While the plot may be forgettable, it certainly works as a worthy popcorn film that provides pure escapism at a time when we need it the most.