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Movie review / ‘The 355’ (M)

“The 355” (M) ***

FOR reasons unlinked with the shape, form or qualities of this fantasy/actioner/feminist flag-waving, energetic, travelogue, comedy written in collaboration with Theresa Rebeck by director Simon Kinberg, I came to this film with no idea what its enigmatic title signifies. 

Later enquiry tells me that it is “a reference to agent 355… the codename of an unidentified female spy who fought for the Patriots during the American Revolution”. God bless America.

It’s vigorous, mindless, often irrational fun that needs no detailed plot summary to explain it. 

“When a top-secret weapon falls into mercenary hands, a wild card CIA agent joins forces with three international agents on a lethal mission to retrieve it, while staying a step ahead of a mysterious woman who’s tracking their every move.” That quote comes straight from its entry in the IMDb, a movie information resource that can be and often is susceptible to manipulation by its clients.

It has five heroines, all from military or law-enforcement careers. By coincidence, they’re all nice to look at. Their coiffures change to suit the day’s activities. Ditto their bosoms and décolletages. 

When the going gets tough, the actresses playing them holler for someone from the long list of stuntwomen to do the wrassling, kicking, punching, stabbing and other unarmed stuff. Their hand guns seldom miss their targets except sometimes when spraying the air with sub-machine guns (and occasionally hitting an expendable male stuntman or two).

Jessica Chastain, who coincidentally also has a producer’s credit, plays the leader of the team. Diane Kruger plays an operative from a rival agency who gets turned to fit the CIA mould. From MI6, Lupita Nyong’o supports the team with a bunch of wild Hollywood-style IT stuff. Penelope Cruz plays a Colombian shrink anxious to get home to her kids. And Bingbing Fan is a mystery Asian woman tracking every move of those four for some other agency.

None of those women strains her acting chops. Their career credits are speckled with awards,

As well as in the US, filming took place in Britain, Morocco, France and China. The cost is hard to find but seven production companies are listed and rumour has it that some companies made bids of $US20 million for distribution rights. Certainly, the film’s overall look shrieks big dollars. Eventually, some of them may be yours.

At Dendy and Hoyts


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Dougal Macdonald

Dougal Macdonald

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