The 355 starring Jessica Chastain, Fan BingBing, Sebastian Stan, Penelope Cruz, Diane Kruger, Lupita Nyong’o

The 355
Image source: Universal Pictures

Movie: The 355

Distributor: Universal Pictures

Production Companies: Freckle Films, Genre Films, FilmNation Entertainment, Huayi Brothers

Director: Simon Kinberg

Producers: Jessica Chastain, Kelly Carmichael, Simon Kinberg

Scriptwriters: Simon Kinberg, Theresa Rebeck

Main Cast: Jessica Chastain, Fan BingBing, Penelope Cruz, Diane Kruger, Lupita Nyong’o, Edgar Ramirez, Sebastian Stan

Running Time: 124 minutes

Release Date: January 7, 2022

Certificate: 12A


What to say about the 355? Well, despite a star studded cast led and being produced by Jessica Chastain, the film just feels fine. Whilst it tries to emulate Gunpowder Milkshake, Kate and Jason Bourne, it can’t escape from being perfectly average. Besides a clever reference in the title, the film struggles to stand out in an overpacked genre. So, without further ado let’s get into my review of the 355 film.


The introduction of the drive

The film opens in Bogota, Colombia where a drug lord presents criminal Elijah Clarke (Flemyng) with a decryption programme. What can it do? It can access any computer system on Earth. Just as they arrive, Clarke kills the drug lord when the authorities raid the mansion. In the midst of the raid, Colombian agent Luis Rojas (Ramirez) gets the device. CIA Operative Mason ‘Mace’ Brown (Chastain), along with her partner Nick Fowler (Stan), arrive to purchase the drive. However, the deal goes south when German agent Marie Schmidt (Kruger) swipes the drive. Brown goes after Schmidt while Clarke follows Fowler into an alley.

The hunt for the drive begins

Back at CIA headquarters, Brown finds out Fowler was found dead in the alley. Well, I’m sure he’s definitely dead. Her superior, Larry Marks, gives her the order to retrieve the drive by any means necessary. Mace decides to travel to London to recruit ex MI6 agent and friend Khadijah Adiyeme (Nyong’o). Remember Rojas? Well, he agrees to hand the drive over to inexperienced Colombian psychologist Graciela Rivera (Cruz). Why? I don’t know… Anyway, Schmidt’s boss, Jonas Muller, convinces her to pursue the drive after revealing her father was a Russian mole. That couldn’t be foreshadowing anything, could it? 

Mace and Khadijah eventually track Graciela and Luis to a market only for the Colombian agent overseeing the handoff to kill Luis. However, before Luis dies he gives Graciela a phone only she can open which can track the drive. After Mace and Marie (there are too many names here) chase the thief down, Marie takes Graciela to a safehouse. Mace and Khadijah then arrive at the safehouse. After realising they all want the drive, Khadijah suggests they all team up. Together, they all travel to Morocco and retrieve the drive. They then hand the drive over to Marks before celebrating with drinks. However, while celebrating with drinks, news stories showing planes crashing and cities with power outages means the drive has fallen into the wrong hands. After finding Marks dead at the safehouse, the women escape and realise someone set them up for killing Marks and stealing the device.

Tracking the Drive and a shock reveal

During an interrogation, the thief tells them recent events have been demonstrations from bidders in an illegal black market auction in Shanghai. The group then infiltrates the auction where to only Mace’s shock and horror Nick is very much alive. Even more shockingly, Nick is Clarke’s mole in the CIA. How could I have not seen this coming…… Whilst they fail to prevent him getting the device, an unnamed Chinese woman helps them escape. She then identifies herself as Lin Mi Sheng (BingBing) and tells them the device was used by her agency to identify criminal bidders. On top of this, Lin tells them that Marks was also on Clarke’s payroll and that she stole the device from Nick during the escape. Wow, that is a lot to take in.

The end of the hunt for the Drive

Nick is then beaten by Clarke’s men for bringing a fake device. He then captures the group, telling them Clarke has captured Muller, Khadijah’s boyfriend, Lin’s father and Graciela’s family. Clarke then kills Muller, Khadijah’s boyfriend and Lin’s father before Lin agrees to give him the device to spare Graciela’s family. However, the others realise she is transmitting her location via her glasses and follow her to Clarke. Arming themselves, they overcome their grief and shoot Nick, rescue Lin and destroy the drive. For their efforts, they all get arrested. Wonderful to see gratitude.

Nick’s crimes catch up with him and definitely not sequel bait.

The film then jumps to two months later where Nick has been promoted to a high CIA rank. For what you ask? Killing Clarke. He then returns home to find the women waiting for him who escaped from custody. Nick then passes out from a drug in his drink (this doesn’t feel good in any way) and is told he will pay for his crimes. Afterwards, the women go their separate ways but wonder when they will reunite to fight corruption in their agencies. Sequel bait much?


Disparities in character development

To begin my analysis of the 355, I’m going to talk about the disparities in character development. Obviously, not everyone could receive the same treatment but because Mace and Nick get most of the screen time it limits audience investment in other characters. Why? Because the other women often feel underdeveloped. Besides wanting the drive, what do the women want? Maybe Marie wants a promotion from her boss or does Graciela want to be taken seriously as an agent? This lack of meaningful material leaves a lot of the characters feeling empty, preventing proper audience investment. Or maybe that’s just me…. Also, as much as I like Sebastian Stan, the twist that he was alive was very predictable. While the 355 attempts to pass it off as shocking, anyone who has seen more than one spy/action film has probably worked the reveal out.

Problems with the Cast

The next part of my analysis of the 355 is the cast. Now, I do concede that the cast is full of great actors and actresses however that isn’t my problem with the 355. What is my problem with the 355’s cast? It seems to be projecting the idea that having a great female cast makes it a good film. Yes, it’s wonderful to see well cast female led films however that isn’t enough to save a perfectly fine film.

Also, its target genre, female led action film, has already seen two decent films (Kate and Gunpowder Milkshake) in the last year with more set to come. While I enjoy parts of the film, I can’t help but feel that the director is hoping to blind people with a fantastic cast so they ignore a meh story. This idea also extends to the title as the 355 refers to Agent 355, a female spy who worked for the patriots during the American Revolution. Yes, in theory it’s progressive but it struggles to translate that on the big screen.

How and why it struggles to stand out in genre terms

Furthermore, the final part of my analysis of the 355 is how and why it struggles to stand out against other films. The reasons about how the 355 struggles to stand out are simple: it’s action scenes and dialogue. What distinguishes the 355’s action scenes from Kate or Gunpowder Milkshake? The answer, depressingly, is very little. Also, it’s dialogue struggles to engage audiences (and while I did enjoy parts of the film) due to it sounding emotionless. This is nothing against the cast who are clearly trying to make the best of an average script but for me it just lacks the necessary emotion.

As to why the 355 struggles to stand out, that too is depressingly simple: too many similar films. While Jessica Chastain said she wanted to emulate Bourne or Mission Impossible, the film didn’t stand a chance. Coming after a year featuring the King’s Man, No Time To Die, Kate and Gunpowder Milkshake, you couldn’t blame audiences for being a bit burned out with spy action films. Also, releasing when No Way Home is still demolishing the box office couldn’t have helped right?


To conclude my review of the 355, this is a conceptually progressive film that struggles to produce results on the big screen. This is in spite of a great cast and some decent performances in the film. 

Overall Rating: 4.5/10 – Below Average

Target Audience: 12+

Content Warning: Moderate violence, moderate bad language, mild references to drugs

Recommendation: No