I know where I need to be to combat January blues, though that is not to say the spirit of this strange time seeps its way onto the silver screen. January releases in the UK need no introduction to the most dedicated cinema-goers, it’s the period where traditionally films that aren’t going to make much money are pushed to so that in February, we can get mostly Oscar-bait films. However, that doesn’t there haven’t been any good films released in January. Cloverfield, Paddington, Taken, all released in January that became successful in their own right. The 355 is one such film that won’t be remembered this way and solidifies the cruel stereotype with a bland taste in your mouth.
I’m not going to lie, as a critic, it is really difficult to find the good in something that is consistently awful, but after putting in the work at least I can say with positivity that at least this films action has a consistent pace, which is a tough factor to maintain in an action film. Although The 355 doesn’t boast any high-risk sequences or anything you would consider unique, the level of energy the actors give during these sequences make them just about watchable. But as you will read later, this is hardly a gold statue of brilliance.
Also, the cast is an all-star cast with very talented people. Jessica Chastain as Mace, a CIA officer turned lone wolf, leads the way along with Lupita Nyong’o, Penelope Cruz as well as Bingbing Fan, a big star of Chinese cinema. All give good enough performances for the material they are working with, but if you were to put a gun to my head and force me to name the show stealer, it would have to be Diane Kruger as Marie, a German BND agent. The only reason being is that out of all these characters, hers has some hint of a past that dictates who she is and the actions she takes, so naturally I was drawn to her more than I was the others.
These positives may feel like big merits for The 355, but let’s not forget that this film is excruciatingly bland and uninspiring. Sitting through it, I was asking so many questions as to why this film deserves my attention and instead of answering my questions with something gripping, it constantly gave me a reason to fall asleep. For instance, the story is a very tired, MacGuffin centred narrative. The MacGuffin in question is a hard drive that can take down planes, cause power failures and pretty much anything the film wants it to do. It sounds threatening, sure, but it never feels threatening. Ultimately it doesn’t matter what it can do, it is solely there to get the plot going.
Like I said before, the actors give good enough performances given the boring material they work with, but for a moment, let’s just explore how boring it is, and where better to start than the film’s dialogue that sounds like it has come directly from the book of cliched action talk. Some of the lines these characters say would be embarrassing for any actor to say and it pretty much confirms to me that the writing process for this film was lazy and clearly the lure of a good paycheck outweighed the lure of passionate writing.
It’s not only the writing that feels lazy but the filmmaking itself is very suspicious. The 355 employs a lot of shaky camera work that does what every bad film tries to do, hide the action behind it so you wonder whether you’ve seen anything at all. Plus, there are several moments where the cinematographer makes a number of rookie mistakes. I counted twice moments where a character would be shot out of focus. Just these mistakes paint an entire picture of filmmakers who don’t care. These moments are why we have taken for safety unless the safety takes were worst in which case, God help us. It makes you wonder did the focus puller from that day turn up on set drunk.
To put it plain and simple, there is nothing that The 355 brings to the table. I can’t really see what anyone saw in this script that made them want to commit to it because there is nothing in this film that hasn’t been done already. The 355 is a bit like a terrible chef being given the best ingredients. You can have the freshest, best quality of ingredients money can buy, but if you don’t have the imagination to cook something up, the end result is going to be terrible. Even the title is ridiculous. It gives you a reason at the end of the film why it’s called The 355, but I guarantee that information will fly over your head.
Just looking at every detail of this film both on and off the screen is a wonder as to how this film managed to get a slot on our cinema screens. The only thing worth seeing in this film is the great number of talented actors, although their talents are wasted here. I doubt anyone is going to remember that The 355 came out this year, I’ll probably miss it out for my worst films list, that’s how forgettable it is.
Final Result: 2/10 – Very Poor
Have you seen The 355? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Next Time: Scream