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Revisiting The 355 on Peacock: When Jessica Chastain, Lupita Nyong’o and More Went Full 007
Chastain & X-Men movie mastermind Simon Kinberg save the world with some serious female star power.
Releasing in January of 2022 after a COVID-19 delay that shuffled its debut down the road a whole year, The 355 was among the last batch of films developed in the pandemic-protocol era that inherited a weirdly-shifting timing window at the box office.
That’s a dressed-up way of saying not many viewers had The 355 on their radar when the Simon Kinberg-directed female spy thriller at last landed in theaters. Now that it’s on Peacock though, the movie — named for the enigmatically nameless female sympathizer whose spycraft helped the Americans win the Revolutionary War — has a second lease on life at finding a wider audience.
Conceived by star Jessica Chastain and pitched to Kinberg as the two worked together on 2019’s Dark Phoenix, the whole idea behind The 355 was to create a James Bond-worthy spy caper that leans heavily on an all-female ensemble of ass-kickers. Viewers expecting enlightened social commentary won’t really find it here, though; The 355 is more of a conventionally breezy, bullet-riddled romp across continents as the film’s ice-cold cast of femmes fatales comes together to save the world from tech-driven terrorist havoc.
What Sets The 355 Apart From Other Spy Thrillers
The cast itself is easily The 355’s biggest selling point. The movie scores big with a compelling Hollywood hit parade of guys and gals alike. Chastain leads the lineup as rogue CIA agent Mace Brown, a seasoned but still-human spy game pro who’s warily infatuated with her longtime CIA liaison (and sometimes romantic flame) Nick Fowler — a double-agent U.S. espionage actor played by Sebastian Stan.
After a dangerous hack-anything device no bigger than an iPhone falls into terrorist hands, the chase is on as Mace assembles an unlikely team of female heroes set on recovering the malevolent MacGuffin while getting to the bottom of Fowler’s seemingly tragic disappearance. The personnel in the core group’s a doozy, including a Colombian therapist played by Penélope Cruz, a German BND agent played by Diane Kruger, and an ex-MI6 agent played by a fully-committed Lupita Nyong’o.
Someone might’ve forgotten to tell Nyong’o that The 355 is mindlessly fun caper fare, because she easily delivers one of the movie’s most emotionally all-in performances. Right there with her is veteran stage actor John Douglas Thompson (as Chastain’s CIA superior), who along with Fan Bingbing (as a Chinese intelligence operative) and Édgar Ramírez (as a patient boyfriend remote-managing his worst MI6 fears back home in Britain) all add a measure of acting gravitas The 355 doesn’t really need to make good on its popcorn-munching premise… but undoubtedly works to enrich the bigger spectacle.
As the ride unfolds, those Bond-movie elements perform their intended magic, with globe-trotting stops and exotic set-piece action slugfests in locations from Shanghai to Morocco to the South American jungle. By the time the gang arrives late to the scene to salvage a sideways misfire while tracing the magic gadget at a high-stakes Chinese auction, it’s clear The 355 is running on spy-movie rails. All the right good gals (and guys) might emerge with a few war wounds, but they’re bound to get their due, while the villains are on a predictable collision course with criminal comeuppance.
Yeah, it’s that kind of by-the-numbers spy flick… but then again, so is Casino Royale. The real fun in The 355 is in watching the movie’s killer cast play against one another (Bingbing’s an especially compelling addition to the bigger group, when she finally does appear), while relinquishing any hopes of of finding high-concept plot elegance amid all the mayhem and instead simply succumbing to the movie’s admittedly cool action caper vibes.
In other words, you should definitely watch The 355 — but just watch it when your appetite for noir-laced cat-and-mouse games is more attuned to John Wick-style eye candy than Blood Simple-style story threads. With a kinetic screenplay by Kinberg and Catwoman writing alum Theresa Rebeck, The 355 is streaming 'round the clock at Peacock.