Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Review: Jessica Chastain Assembles Her Own Mission Impossible Team in Swingy “355”


There have been what they call distaff “Mission Impossible” movies before today. I’m thinking of “Ocean’s 8,” which was more fun than expected albeit a little forced.

Now the very smart and talented actress Jessica Chastain, acting as producer as well this time, has cast herself as an Ethan Hunt/Danny Ocean for “The 355,” directed by Simon Kinberg and hitting theaters only on Friday. For this kind of movie, “The 355” is a little low budget– just $40 million — but it has spunk, and I like spunk.

“The 355″ has the kind of convoluted plot that propels these movies.  Everyone wants to get their hands on some kind electronic disc that can bring about the end of the world. Chastain’s Mace is on the hunt for it as a CIA operative along with her boyfriend, played by Sebastian Stan. In short order, though, Mace is on her own. She recruits assistance in the form of Lupita Nyong’o, a retired spy, and Penelope Cruz, a psychologist, becomes an unwitting ally. Very shortly after that another spy, Diane Kruger, who they think is working against them, becomes a team member.

There’s nothing terribly sophisticated going on here, but it works. Sometimes a well executed formula can be a relief. The women are beautiful and smart, they’re no airheads and there’s nothing campy about them, which is also a relief. You don’t get a lot of backstory, but Cruz has a family and we get enough of hers, with nice comedic touches, to make us think we know her. We get it that Chastain and Kruger are career spies, and that Nyong’o has made a life for herself. That’s all we need. People are coming with machine guns, this isn’t a tea party.

The movie is certainly tipped toward a female audience, but guys who see this film should be impressed by the artillery, the action, and the explosions. There’s some nice unexpected violence, too, which will make the men feel better about watching female heroes. All in all, the credit goes to Chastain, who knew what she could do if she assembled A list talent and kept it smart. I wouldn’t mind seeing another installment of ‘The 355,” maybe with a slightly bigger budget and a better screenplay.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedmanhttps://www.showbiz411.com
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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