An impressive, female-dominated cast hits the big screen this month, in Simon Kinberg’s highly anticipated new movie, The 355. Hollywood A-listers Jessica Chastain, Lupita Nyong’O, Fan Bingbing, Diane Kruger, Penélope Cruz and Sebastian Stan all star in this gripping, dynamic and empowering triumph of a film- crammed with flawless fight sequences, vibrant global destinations, and of course, a punchy plotline.
Though ‘The 355’ takes on the general structure of a classic action movie, there ceases to be a dull moment while being whisked away on an international adventure and watching a group of intelligent, powerful women completely wipe out every traditional patriarchal expectation and norm in sight.
The movie starts with the introduction of the ‘cyber key’- a clearly powerful device that can essentially control any piece of technology it targets (I.e. it can blow up planes, buildings, hack into secret systems and so on), of which is taken into the wrong hands. Agents from all over the world find out about this, and so a quest to retrieve the device begins.
We are first introduced to Mace (Jessica Chastain)- a special CIA agent, clearly full of intelligence and strength, and is in a relationship with Sebastian Stan’s character, Nick Fowler. They are sent to purchase the item from a Colombian Agent in Paris- a deal quickly cut short by the interference of another mysterious figure- undercover German agent Marie Schmidt (Diane Kruger)- who steals the bag full of money and runs off. The first interaction between Mace and Marie does not start well- but they both want the same thing- the drive. After, Mace learns that her partner, Nick is killed during the chase.
As the film progresses, 4 women find themselves collaborating, despite their differences, to get hold of the drive. Khadijah (Lupita Nyong’o), an ex-MI6 tech-genius and now settling into her new, normal London life, is approached by old friend Mace to aid them in the mission. She reluctantly accepts, leaves her boyfriend and home, and joins the other women. Graciela, (Penélope Cruz) is a clever psychologist and loving mother (albeit highly anxious and with no experience in the special agent field) who also accompanies the group out of obligation, tussling with guilt and concern over her own safety as well as her family’s.
Through bustling, vibrant Moroccan markets, remote industrial warehouses and the glossy skyscrapers and bright lights of Shanghai, the group still find themselves without the drive, until the night of the auction- at which point the movie reaches its climax. All dressed to (quite literally) kill, the group turn up in search of the device, however run into some trouble and end up cornered- at this point, a mysterious Chinese woman appears, Lin Mi Sheng, offering them help to escape.
Meanwhile, (spoiler ahead) Mace discovers that Nick is actually alive, however now working for the ‘bad guys’, and also wants the drive. Amid Jessica Chastain’s execution of an immaculate fight scene, the other women escape, closely followed by Mace, and go back to Lin Mi Sheng’s house, where she reveals she had the real drive all along. The shatter of glass and aggressive shouting suddenly suggests a grim turn of events, and just when we thought all was well, Nick Fowler shows up, demanding the drive whilst holding everyone at gunpoint- including beloved partners, dear friends and Graciela’s terrified young children at home.
Blood is shed, devastation caused, and the drive is handed over, leaving the movie at a rather dark spot- though, with brave faces and vindictive intent, the women prepare for a final fight to retrieve the drive and ensure it ends up in safe hands. So, an epically brilliant battle ensues, resulting in Nick being comically dragged away by authorities and of course, the safe recovery of the all-important drive.
If you aren’t going to watch this film for anything else, just go and see it for its riveting storyline and thrilling locations- but most importantly to support the growth of female-centric cinema and the diverse representation of women on screen. Femininity in all its forms is shown in this film- from motherhood, emotion, fear, and supportiveness to physical and mental strength, leadership and confidence- and this diverse range of female characters do an excellent job at portraying each and every one of them.
Words by: Tilly Milsome
Edited by: Ellen Robinson