Director Simon Kinberg
Screenplay Theresa Rebeck, Simon Kinberg
Starring Jessica Chastain, Lupita Nyong’o, Bingbing Fan, Penélope Cruz, Diane Kruger, Sebastian Stan, Édgar Ramírez

The 355 gives some rather incredible actresses the chance to play Bond. Some, like Chastain, have done this before. The name comes from the first female patriot undercover agent for the U.S., though this story is international. All of these women, save one, meet in the pursuit of a macguffin that could do bad stuff. And we don’t want bad stuff to happen.

The first five minutes gives away the entire game. There is nothing here you haven’t seen before, aside from that much acting talent in a spy movie. If we are not challenged at all by the script, it’s still pretty nice to see women band together to overcome evil.

The only one treading familiar ground is the afore mentioned Chastain, the CIA spook who takes her first round loss rather personally. Her gruff demeanor is only slightly offset by any attempts to act on feminine wile. She’s in tough guy mode throughout. Nyong’o’s British MI6 cyber security expert is limited, only until we see her become a native on an assignment. Her ability to melt into a crowd is an example of her best skills. Kruger is the daughter of a compromised German agent who is conflicted at home, but whole in her pursuit. Cruz has the most unique angle, as a Columbian DNI agent who is really more of a psychologist. Rounding things out is Bingbing, who is a mysterious MSS agent who is deadly in her persuit.

The story is a variation of the Kit Kat theme, where everyone puts their chocolate in someone else’s peanut butter. We know they’re supposed to work together, especially if anyone has seen the commercials for this film. They remain unaware for significant parts of the film. First they must show their fighting skills on each other, while shooting any men who happen to be involved in the same pursuit. Some of these fights are decent. None of them are surprising.

If the review sounds jaded, it’s the story that is the big letdown. Given the right script and director, this could have made a classic. Instead the acting takes terrible and makes it average. It’s not easy to love this film. It’s relatively easy to like, just for the women’s talent alone.

(*** out of *****)

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