When I was studying at Georgetown, I attended an informational session with the CIA. True story but it isn’t as fancy as it sounds. I was working for the School of Foreign Service and while I wasn’t studying that department, my boss knew I was by far the nerdiest when it came to anything spy-related. They sent me to help with this information session so that in case not enough students showed up, at least the CIA agent would have an enthusiastic person in the crowd.
During this session, they said that females are used as spies more often because people, in general, lower their guard around women. A woman would be the secretary, bringing in coffee while the men dealt with the issues at hand. Little did they realize, this secretary could be a double agent.
Growing up, I was raised less on fairy tales and more on spies. 007, Mission Impossible the show was on late night tv then the movies came out just in time. But they were all male-centered spies. I noticed a lot of the time, the women who seemingly were important to the plot, even to the male leads were ultimately dispensable.
Of course, I devoured Alias and anything else that remotely mentioned women spies. I quite enjoyed Anna where she has two men rotating her bed as she toys with which side she wants to spy for. Then I heard that one of my favorite actresses and producer, Jessica Chastain has an all-star cast of female spies from all over the world, The 355.
I could not wait and then the damn pandemic delayed the release by a year. Just let us stream it, Jess! Black Widow even did that!
I waited patiently and for a treat, I went to the actual movie theaters to watch this film. Was it worth the wait? And not just the delay of release for this, I am talking about the delay of seeing the women be the leads in a spy genre. Well, let’s get into it:
+ “Technology is the new drug.” A direct quote from the film as it centers on a device that can control anything digital. Makes me glad I never got that damn Echo and manually turnoff lights! As Chastain’s character explains, when it came to the Cold War or the War on Terror, we knew who our enemies were. This time, it is like ghosts. It is technology.
USA, Germany, China, and a few terrorists sprinkled here and there want to get their hands on this device. Who can we trust? Who deserves this device? Here is where five women have to make those decisions.
So a solid plot, we have seen it before but I liked this take on it.
+ The women (and even the male co-stars) are great. The whole film is a bit exaggerated so I forgive some of the dialogue and over-the-top action scenes or when the ladies do the whole swaying the hips thing. Then again, if you ever wore four-inch heels, you know that the hip-swaying is mandatory.
+ I always thought it would be cool to see the different countries work together. We saw it in the show then film version, Man From U.N.C.L.E. but this film tripled the number of players. There comes a sense of unity and a “ We can do this, together!” attitude which is cheesy but works. As Bingbing Fan later says,
+ Something that is missing in a lot of action, spy films is admitting to fear and vulnerability. This film addresses it head-on a couple of times while never dwelling on it. The women tell Penelope Cruz, who is not really a spy but gets entangled in the mission that you should and need to be terrified during a mission.
I appreciated that versus the tough guy exterior that nothing can break you down. You will get scared, you will want to cry but you use that to get the job done so that everybody else can sleep at night peacefully.
– A lot of unnecessary chasing around, throwing things, cars crashing, etc. It’s something else I learned during that CIA session. Spies don’t like attention, they want to be invisible. So the whole car chases, the whole running in, guns blazing, it is pure fiction. It would never actually get the job done. And this movie? Especially in the first 15 minutes, it did a lot of damage in the streets of Paris which was just too over the top.
Of course, there are several other fight scenes, glass breaking, etc, but it was shown more sporadically. I was nervous when the film began and people were being thrown left or right, but it cooled down and figured out it’s pace.
– Cheesy lines and several double agents, but that’s to be expected.
Overall, I give this movie a 2.5 stars out 5 for fans of the spy genre, a 2 stars for film fans in general.
It is a bit long, had abrupt edit cuts and loud nonsense, especially in the beginning but then it found it’s groove providing an overall, enjoyable ride. So was it worth the wait? Yeah, I think so but I could have waited to just stream it later.
Side note: As for any risk of exposure at the theater, there were three other people, well over 8 feet away from us. Judging by this, I would say a sequel is not in the works. It does make me wonder though, if they did sell this to a streaming service, it might have gotten enough views to finance a sequel. Oh well, you live, you learn.
Let me know what your thoughts are on The 355!
Watch the trailer here:
*Image from Universal Pictures