Who says movies can't be educational?
The 355, a Bond-like thriller starring Jessica Chastain, derives its title from Agent 355, a real-life woman who spied for the rebel colonists during the Revolutionary War.
Yes, that was news to me, too.
Oh well, the movie's title hints at the only revolutionary thing about it. The 355 quickly establishes itself as a formula job that tries so hard to attain franchise status, it might as well have been called The 355, Chapter 1.
Directed by Simon Kinberg (X-Men: Dark Phoenix) from a screenplay he wrote with Theresa Rebeck and Bek Smith, The 355 pits five women -- Chastain, Lupita Nyong'o, Diane Kruger, Penelope Cruz, and, late in the movie, Fan Bingbing -- against an evil genius who's trying to snare a device that can cripple the world's computer networks.
Much of the time, it seems as if The 355 has been concocted to demonstrate the obvious: Women can make butt-kicking movies, too.
Of the women, though, only Kruger seems adept at projecting a killer vibe. Nyong'o plays a computer whiz who's trying to break with her MI6 past. Cruz? I'll get to her later.
Chastain's Mace (short for Mason) and Kruger's Marie, a German agent, begin the movie as antagonists, squaring off in a chase sequence set in the Paris Metro.
Mostly, though, these women don't travel by subway. Instead, they globe hop from Paris to Marrakesh to Shanghai as the story contrives to unite them against a common foe.
Absent a compelling story, we're left to wonder whether someone thought A-list pizzaz could elevate the movie's collection of undistinguished action, predictable plot points, personal betrayals, and slick packaging.
The 355 does feature one unusual job: Cruz plays a shrink with a narrow specialty. Her Graciela counsels Colombian secret agents and enters the picture to provide therapy for a rogue agent played by Edgar Ramirez.
Sebastian Stan portrays one of Mace's fellow CIA agents as well as a sort of minor (very) love interest.
If by some miracle, there's a second helping of this uninspired brew, a title already awaits. How about The 356?