‘The 355’ has an all-star cast looking for an all-star script | Z-non-digital
In general, the less time “The 355” cast members spend speaking English, the better off they fare.
Spanish, German, Russian and French are just some of the languages spoken in the spy thriller, which attempts to broaden its appeal overseas by casting a wide net in its choice of actors and places. Basically, every woman who didn’t make it into “Ocean’s Eight” is here, including Jessica Chastain, Diane Kruger, Penelope Cruz, and Lupita Nyong’o as the titular spy ring, who are trying to get their hands on a drive containing superweapon or important information or something.
So what kind of important information? It’s a bit blurry. Directed by screenwriter Simon Kinberg, “355” is moderately entertaining in individual scenes, which feature the foursome overseeing an auction of priceless artifacts or gathering information at a street festival. But the scenes don’t hold together because the plot engine is so jerky.
Another problem is the villain. Revealing who he is would be a spoiler, but not an interesting spoiler. Neither the character nor the actor who plays him has much to offer in the area of evil. That the villain is a guy too is disappointing. The movies 007 and “Mission: Impossible” from which “355” mostly stems have been too sissies to cast a woman as a supervillain, but you’d think this movie would be ready to go. You know Jessica Lange would kill like a purring evil mastermind.
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The real problem, however, is the screenplay by Kinberg (who has written many “X-Men” movies) and Theresa Rebeck.
When the dialogue is in other languages, it’s not that noticeable but when Nyong’o, in particular, speaks, it’s often laughable. There’s the scene where Kruger pulls out a gun with a barrel about 10 inches long, causing Nyong’o to exclaim, “Looks like she’s armed!” Sure ! Nyong’o is supposed to be the computer genius in the group, but it’s hard to swallow her supposed intellect when the script keeps making her look like a confused mathlete (“These algorithms are beyond anything I’ve ever seen!”).
It might help if “355” had more humor. Chastain gets into some naughty zingers and Cruz has fun being a secret agent who really doesn’t want to be a secret agent but the tone is surprisingly dark. “Ocean’s Eight” erred in the opposite direction – it was so light you could have popped it. But a caper flick like this really needs some jokes to keep things light in between runtime-style massacres.
Eventually, I decided the best way to approach Nyongo’s line-readings was to pretend she was trying to do some sort of meta commentary on the hard-to-swallow movie she’s starring in. Towards the end, for example, when she says, ‘We’ve been erased. Made invisible,” I thought, “Not yet, Lupita. But give your movie a week in theaters and it will.