by Rob DiCristino
There’s always something cleansing about January releases. Harried by the crucible of awards season, cinephiles everywhere are ready to turn the page and start fresh. Writing year-end think pieces and top ten lists is exhausting, after all, and the last thing we need is another provocative drama or genre-defining epic to muddy the waters even further. We’re done with the introspection. Done with the analysis. We want something that goes down smoothly, something that doesn’t require a whole lot of effort to digest. Studios oblige every January with a buffet of empty calories, a season’s worth of niche and middling projects that lacked the four-quadrant potential for last year’s high-profile slates. Call it a dumping ground, if you like, but we might instead think of it as a soft opening. We’re taxiing the cinematic runway, stretching out our movie-going muscles. With that in mind, we might look at a white-noise machine like The 355 with a bit more charity. It’s a bad movie, of course, but at least it has the good sense to come out when no one is paying attention.
Longtime action-adventure screenwriter Simon Kinberg makes his sophomore directorial effort (following 2019’s X-Men: Dark Phoenix) with The 355, co-writing with Theresa Rebeck on a screenplay originally conceived with Chastain. Kinberg’s resume is full of second-tier blockbusters like this one, and his transition to the director’s chair has yet to present a ton of additional promise. At first glance, The 355 looks and feels like an exciting, Mission: Impossible-style thriller: Gun-wielding agents chase terrorists through open air markets, tech whizzes furrow their brows at lines of indecipherable computer code, and a classy formal affair gives our sexy female protagonists an opportunity to get glossed up in their best eveningwear. It’s standard fodder for a trailer, sure, but The 355 fails to offer much of a narrative to pad the spaces between. Character dynamics are about as inert as the action photography, and despite presenting as an alternative to the male-dominated bluster typical of the genre, the entire ensemble looks like they’d rather be anywhere else.