This review is a repost of The GWW’s review of The 355.
I thought long and hard about what to write for The 355. I wanted so badly to give it a good review, as the film stars Jessica Chastain, Lupita Nyong’o, and more. The more I thought about it, though, is that Simon Kinberg’s latest film never really had a chance to succeed and amaze while Simon Kinberg himself was attached to the project. His films generally haven’t turned out the best, as exemplified with Dark Phoenix. The potential is all here. You have an all-star cast, consisting of Chastain, Nyong’o, Diane Kruger, Bingbing Fan, Penelope Cruz, and even Sebastian Stan.
The 355 should have been a major hit, critically acclaimed and with audiences raving. Instead, you have a film that basically flopped at both the box office and reviews. As I said, Universal had the potential for it to be a good film. They just needed a better director. Several possible options come to mind, including Christopher Nolan, Kari Skogland, or possibly even Zack Snyder (though he’s a bit of a hot topic in Hollywood right now). I’m not blaming the mistakes of the movie exclusively on Kinberg, but he has a lot of responsibility for it.
Let’s start with the biggest issue with The 355, the story. The story is perhaps the thing that kills it all here. You could have a great story with terrible directing, and it’d still be an okay film. You could have a movie with a not-great story, but with every other aspect of the film being good. I find the latter to be exemplified in Eternals, and the former in Casablanca. In any case, the story is bad, and the directing is bad. Those 2 things together simply don’t work for any film. When a project has story issues, who do you blame? Generally, the producers, director, and writer. Basically, Simon Kinberg.
Possible story changes in The 355 could’ve included less stereotypical plot twists. When you see a plot twist coming from a mile away, it’s just not as fun to watch. I saw it coming from halfway across the globe (I guess they were in Paris?). The film subsequently suffers from a lack of originality, instead opting to pursue the route that’s been done hundreds of times in spy action cinema. While some may find it intriguing, I find it to be boring and uninspiring, which unfortunately is what Hollywood did for the first year of the pandemic. Looks like we might be back in those times anyway.
TERRIBLE SCORE, POOR EDITING
The score of The 355 might set a new record for “worst film, worst score”. Even the worst of movies have produced at the very minimum, okay soundtracks. This is just pure terrible. And no, before you ask, I won’t blame this on Simon Kinberg. Tom Holkenborg sets the entirely wrong theme for the movie when the soundtrack is playing. When there’s an action scene, the music turns slightly towards making viewers think there’s going to be suspense. Guess what? No suspense, just more action. The wrong idea is set for the movie. I’ve always maintained that the score is an integral part of any movie, and for it to be this bad in The 355…….it speaks for itself.
The editing is a whole other realm of bad. I know I just keep on trashing the movie, and nearly every aspect of it (but it gets better, I promise!), but to be fair The 355 kind of deserves it. The editing in this piece of cinema (does it even deserve to be called cinema?) is honestly the worst. It feels like you hired a seventh grader to mash it up, and the result is a cobbled-together pile of .mp4 files, rather than an actual movie. Abrupt cuts to different scenes are displayed, with no explanation provided. It’d be nice if the jump-cuts between scenes were at least related, rather than totally random?
COSTUME AND PRODUCTION DESIGN
One thing I will say about this film, the production and costume design are on another level. And not in a bad way. The extravagant nature of the costumes, and the elegant design of the sets make for a more enjoyable experience. My favorite costumes, by far, were the quartet (plus Bingbing Fan’s character) at the Shanghai auction. The outfits were stylist and fit with the times (though I’m not delving too deep into that, I know little about fashion). I have to admit I was a little surprised that they even bothered to wear nice outfits for the auction. Based on the trajectory of the film, I would’ve guessed that they could’ve worn a t-shirt and track pants.
The production design is also quite elegant (though the costumes are a smidge better). The final battle location (before it got shot up), looks like a wonderful suite that I would stay at. The mixing for modern and ancient architecture makes for a warmer feel to the suite, which provides a nice aesthetic. The location for the French cafe is also nice, it’s small and cozy. I needed more of that from The 355.
I’m gonna be short here. The pacing sucked. I went into the theater, the movie started a few minutes before 8pm. I had sat through a sizable portion of The 355, and I was feeling like I’d been there for 90 minutes to 2 hours,. It felt off, because I knew the movie itself was only 2 hours, so I silently checked my phone for the time without disturbing others. It had been 60 minutes. The second half of the movie is better, but only slightly. The first half, in terms of pacing, is an absolute nightmare.
It’s quite clear the the COVID-19 pandemic had a big impact on the post-production process of this film as seen with many other projects. The editing is a mess, and it’s obvious the editors were in a hurry to make it for their release date,, so the film didn’t get delayed. again. The right thing to do would’ve been to push the film another 3 months, to giver the creative team time to revise and try to reshoot some of the film, to fix the major issues. However, due to the ever-changing nature of the pandemic, and a possible window for the film to release, Universal Pictures made the decision to force The 355 through the distribution process, which led to its dismal $4M opening weekend.
There looks to be a possibility for sequels on the horizon. The film ends with the group of agents splitting up, and each going their separate ways. Nick gets [SPOILERS] [SPOILERS] [SPOILERS], and that’s an intentional question mark. What happens next to Nick? It’s also obvious that the group of agents (dubbed “The 355”) will regroup at a later date for another world-ending event. In retrospect, it seems kind of like The Avengers. In any case, with the film’s flop at the box office (at least on opening weekend), the franchise’s future isn’t looking too bright, but if they move forward with a sequel, PLEASE find a new director.
The 355 has some qood qualities and some bad qualities, like any other film, but its bads are so severe that the movie falls apart on them. If you like stereotypical action flicks, then this movie might be right for you. It’s just not for me. Universal isn’t really excited to greenlight a sequel after the critical acclaim on the original, but who knows? Studios surprise us all the time. The 355 is now playing exclusively in theaters.
Overall Grade: C