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Jessica chastain, penelope cruz and lupita nyong’o in ‘the 355’: film review.

Diane Kruger and Fan Bingbing also star in Simon Kinberg’s globe-trotting espionage thriller about an all-female group of operatives chasing a deadly cyber weapon.

By David Rooney

David Rooney

Chief Film Critic

'The 355'

There’s ample action but less excitement in The 355 , a production launched with great fanfare at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival that Universal is now dropping on the marketplace with minimal fuss. The idea for an espionage thriller led by an ensemble of women was hatched by producer and star Jessica Chastain while serving on the Cannes competition jury the previous year, sparked by the billboards lining the Croisette touting potential blockbusters, mostly fronted by male leads. The impulse to put kickass women in charge for a change is commendable, but the journeyman result suggests the pitfalls of starting with the packaging instead of the storytelling inspiration.

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Given the genesis of the project, perhaps the biggest disappointment is that rather than put a woman behind the camera, Chastain recruited Simon Kinberg , whose extensive credits as producer and screenwriter are more impressive than his sole previous directing gig, on the 2019 X-Men franchise entry, Dark Phoenix .

Release date : Friday, Jan. 7 Cast : Jessica Chastain, Penélope Cruz, Fan Bingbing , Diane Kruger , Lupita Nyong’o, Édgar Ramírez, Sebastian Stan Director : Simon Kinberg Screenwriters : Theresa Rebeck, Simon Kinberg; story by Rebeck

He co-wrote The 355 with playwright Theresa Rebeck, who has a long history with TV cop procedurals, from NYPD Blue to Law & Order: Criminal Intent . But its thinly drawn characters and rote, often logistically unsound plot mechanics make this an unlikely bid to bring distaff energy to Bond and Bourne territory, notwithstanding the optimistic closing scene leaving the door ajar for sequels.

The title is a code-name nod to a real-life female operative who conveyed key information about British troop movements to American generals serving under George Washington in the Revolutionary War. The aim, by extension, is to provide recognition for overlooked women working behind the scenes in all manner of fields. In this case, that’s women who put themselves in danger to protect the rest of the world from it.

An elementary feminist perspective is baked into the material, from the hard-learned lessons of women placing their trust in the wrong men to the short-sighted disdain of a male villain berating his colleague for being outmaneuvered by “a bunch of girls.” But the real backbone of the story is female solidarity — with even women who start out from adversarial positions discovering the benefits of pooling their strengths and resources for a common goal.

That goal involves keeping an advanced technological device out of enemy hands. When a data key that can access and shut down any closed system on the global net is seized by Colombian intelligence officer Luis Rojas (Édgar Ramírez) during a deal that goes awry, he sees an opportunity to set himself up for retirement by selling the cyber weapon to the CIA.

Hotheaded loose cannon Mason “Mace” Browne (Chastain) is dispatched from Langley to Paris with fellow agent Nick (Sebastian Stan), a close friend who went through training with her. Their relationship has been strictly platonic, but since they’re posing as Iowan honeymooners, Nick puts the romantic moves on her. Although Mace doesn’t want to mess up the friendship, her resistance lasts about a minute, which undercuts the main character by putting girlish vulnerability in the way of her professional instincts.

Naturally, the mission doesn’t go as planned. German operative Marie Schmidt (Diane Kruger) snatches the bag she believes contains the device and parallel chases ensue, with Nick in pursuit of Luis above ground while Mace hunts down Marie in the Métro tunnels. An unfortunate casualty ups the emotional stakes for Mace, who brings in her former MI6 ally, Khadijah Adiyeme (Lupita Nyong’o), an ace computer hacker who has sworn off spycraft for a quieter life of romantic bliss.

Meanwhile, Colombian psychologist Dr. Graciela Rivera (Penélope Cruz) is sent by her government to bring the rogue Luis back into line and return the cyber weapon to them. But before she can get him out of France, they are set upon by armed thugs working for the most colorless mercenary in recent screen memory (Jason Flemyng). At one point a character notes that unlike the Cold War or the War on Terror, cyber warfare pits them against an invisible enemy. But that doesn’t make the bad guys here any more interesting.

With both Mace and Marie having failed to retrieve the device for their respective intelligence organizations, they are forced to quit beating the bejesus out of each other and team up. Horrified by all the gunfire and violence, Graciela just wants to return home to her precious family. But her fingerprint recognition on a tracking device and the target now on her back oblige her to tag along.

As much as the film advocates for female empowerment, the separation of the characters according to their family and romantic affiliations, or lack of them, seems a tad reductive.

Mace has always been a lone wolf and she meets her match in Marie, whose fiercely solitary nature and reluctance to trust anyone were set in stone when she discovered at age 15 that her father was a double agent working for the Russians. That makes her the meatiest of the characters, and Kruger’s scowling physicality in the role makes her the thriller’s most dynamic presence. All the actresses bring considerable charisma to the film but Rebeck and Kinberg’s script gives them no shading. More humor in the brief bonding moments that punctuate the accelerated action interludes would have gone a long way.

The story jumps from France to Morocco, where the women use the literal cloak of female invisibility to their advantage in a crowded marketplace. But double-crosses and underestimated antagonists mean the device keeps eluding them, eventually turning up in a dark-web auction in Shanghai. The glamorous high-roller art event that fronts that sale allows for a sleek wardrobe change (yay, fight scenes in wigs and heels!) and 007-style gadgetry with jewelry cams. The auction also brings out an enigmatic figure in Lin Mi Sheng (Fan Bingbing), who appears to be one step ahead of the women until the explosive climax in a luxury hotel.

Kinberg handles the fast-paced action capably, with muscular camerawork from Tim Maurice-Jones, propulsive scoring from Tom Holkenberg and busy editing from John Gilbert and Lee Smith. The fight choreography isn’t exactly inventive, but it’s serviceable enough, with Chastain, Kruger and Fan, in particular, getting to show off some sharp moves. It’s all quite watchable and not without suspense, but the characters reveal too little emotional depth or complexity to make us care much about either their losses or their hard-fought victories.

By the standards of recent female-driven action like Widows , Wonder Woman , The Old Guard , Black Widow and Birds of Prey — not to mention longtime Asian favorites like The Heroic Trio — The 355 is a pedestrian number.

Full credits

Distributor: Universal Production companies: Freckle Films, SK Genre Films, Universal Pictures, FilmNation Entertainment Cast: Jessica Chastain, Penélope Cruz, Fan Bingbing, Diane Kruger, Lupita Nyong’o, Édgar Ramírez, Sebastian Stan, Jason Flemyng, Sylvester Groth, John Douglas Thompson, Leo Starr Director: Simon Kinberg Screenwriters: Theresa Rebeck, Simon Kinberg; story by Rebeck Producers: Jessica Chastain, Kelly Carmichael, Simon Kinberg Executive producers: Richard Hewitt, Esmond Ren, Wang Rui Director of photography: Tim Maurice-Jones Production designer: Simon Elliott Costume designer: Stephanie Collie Music: Tom Holkenberg Editors: John Gilbert, Lee Smith Visual effects supervisor: Keith Devlin Casting: Avy Kaufman

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2022, Action/Mystery & thriller, 2h 2m

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Critics Consensus

It has a stellar cast and it's conceptually progressive, but The 355 squanders it all on a forgettable story, unremarkably told. Read critic reviews

Audience Says

A great cast and lots of action make The 355 a solid option for viewers seeking a fun thriller. Read audience reviews

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The 355 videos, the 355 photos.

When a top-secret weapon falls into mercenary hands, wild card CIA agent Mason "Mace" Brown (Oscar®-nominated actress Jessica Chastain) will need to join forces with rival badass German agent Marie (Diane Kruger, In the Fade), former MI6 ally and cutting-edge computer specialist Khadijah (Oscar® winner Lupita Nyong'o), and skilled Colombian psychologist Graciela (Oscar® winner Penélope Cruz) on a lethal, breakneck mission to retrieve it, while also staying one-step ahead of a mysterious woman, Lin Mi Sheng (Bingbing Fan, X-Men: Days of Future Past), who is tracking their every move. As the action rockets around the globe from the cafes of Paris to the markets of Morocco to the opulent auction houses of Shanghai, the quartet of women will forge a tenuous loyalty that could protect the world--or get them killed.

Rating: PG-13 (Sequences of Strong Violence|Brief Strong Language|Suggestive Material)

Genre: Action, Mystery & thriller

Original Language: English

Director: Simon Kinberg

Producer: Kelly Carmichael , Jessica Chastain , Simon Kinberg

Writer: Theresa Rebeck , Simon Kinberg

Release Date (Theaters): Jan 7, 2022  wide

Release Date (Streaming): Feb 21, 2022

Box Office (Gross USA): $14.6M

Runtime: 2h 2m

Distributor: Universal Pictures

Production Co: Universal Pictures, Freckle Films, FilmNation Entertainment

Sound Mix: Dolby Digital

Aspect Ratio: Scope (2.35:1)

Cast & Crew

Jessica Chastain

Mace, Mason Browne

Sebastian Stan

Nick Fowler

Penélope Cruz

Graciela Rivera

Lupita Nyong'o

Khadijah Adiyeme

Diane Kruger

Marie Schmidt

Fan Bingbing

Lin Mi Sheng

Jason Flemyng

Elijah Clarke

Pablo Scola

Edgar Ramírez

Simon Kinberg

Theresa Rebeck


Kelly Carmichael

Richard Hewitt

Executive Producer

Tim Maurice-Jones


John Gilbert

Film Editor

Original Music

Simon Elliott

Production Design

Art Director

Anna Lynch-Robinson

Set Decoration

Stephanie Collie

Costume Designer

Mounir Saguia

Wang Rui Huan

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The 355 Review

Meh-ssion: impossible..

Matt Fowler

The 355 premieres in theaters on Friday, Jan. 7.

Born of an idea star Jessica Chastain had while working with director Simon Kinberg on X-Men: Dark Phoenix about an all-female Mission: Impossible-style espionage team, The 355 starts off with decent energy and good intentions, but then devolves into a mess of sluggish clichés, predictable twists, and obvious arcs. And also, possibly, a (pandemic-necessitated?) green-screened Bingbing Fan. More on that later, though...

As an origin tale that clumsily lobbies for further adventures, The 355 brings together badass spies (and one psychologist) from different countries for a global squad of butt-kickers, at first all at cross-purposes, scrambling to get their hands on a dangerous piece of tech that can be weaponized to target anything that's online. For a while, mostly during the first act, the action pieces and chase sequences dazzle, enough to distract from the thin characters and emaciated dialogue. But somewhere around the movie's middle the story loses steam and the actual combining of these warriors into a functioning unit never quite rises to the occasion.

In their various ways, each of the four heroes (plus, the third act addition of the aforementioned Fan) is at a different state of their spy career. Some have no experience while others are too far gone in the game, distant and distrustful of everyone. Chastain's Mace, the CIA agent here, is just a few shades greener than Diane Kruger's German agent, Marie, as Mace still harbors hope for love, despite being burned before. Together, though, they're similarly driven and stubborn enough to be enemies at first.

The core cast -- of Chastain, Kruger (replacing Marion Cotillard, who can still be spotted in early publicity shoots), Lupita Nyong'o, and Penélope Cruz -- is solid, and Chastain makes for a stalwart, default Danny Ocean-type leader (right down to her weakness), but none of them are able to quite overcome the story's lack of wit and paucity of heart. If The 355 had few more moments of levity, or if it maybe made more of an attempt to rise above the absolute basics of the genre, the fact that each character is only given their "one thing" to care about would be easier to overlook.

From Paris to London to Morocco, the ladies' mission traverses the world, with each spot necessitating different types of tactics. Some require guns a' blazing while others call for formal wear and flirting. Chastain and Kruger get the most hand-to-hand action, and both shine as formidable fighters during strong stunt sequences, but the standout of the squad is Nyong'o, whose MI6 "gal in the chair" nicely shifts from cyber-scouring assistant to lethal field agent.

The best spy movie franchise is...

Cruz's character, sadly, feels like the most wasted element here, as the one woman in the bunch with no combat training. Not only does The 355 not take enough comedic advantage of her being the fish out of water, but the premise is hammered home so much that you expect the twist to be that she's actually a violent agent hiding her abilities. But that swerve never happens, which is a pity because it would have been the only fun twist in the entire story. And sticking with that, as the film heads into its endgame, it seems to lose most of its interest in what it started.

Sure, a lot of movies crumble at the finish, but The 355, particularly, seems to rush through a lot so it can wrap things up and spread its franchise wings. Not that what we're given as a villain is all that exciting, but everything here, past the midway point, is just treated like a stepping stone to get the characters into future installments.

Sebastian Stan and Édgar Ramírez round out the cast, playing their rather rote roles admirably. The best that can be said for them is that they feel way more vital to the film than Chinese star Bingbing Fan, who's not only a late addition to the story, but also seems like she filmed little to no scenes with the rest of the cast. And if she wasn't green-screened into the film (which it looks like), the staging sure makes it look like she was, which just from a blocking standpoint, makes this ensemble feel pretty uncoordinated.

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The 355

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Penelope Cruz, Jessica Chastain, Diane Kruger and Lupita Nyong'o in The 355

The 355 review – Jessica Chastain-led action thriller is a disappointing dud

The Oscar nominee leads an impressive cast in a frustratingly rote caper that ends up being as forgettable as its title

W hile X-Men scribe Simon Kinberg’s junky action thriller chooses not to reveal the meaning behind its truly forgettable title until the end (one of his many bizarre decisions as writer-director), I’m going to start by explaining that The 355 is a reference to Agent 355, one of America’s first female spies, deployed during the late 18th century, real identity forever unknown. Perhaps the reason we find this out so very late is that a mere whiff of this story ends up being far more dramatically enticing than the film it’s inspired, the first big release of the year doubling up as its first big disappointment.

Back in 2017, while in the middle of shooting another ill-advised disaster – the loathed X-Men spin-off Dark Phoenix – Jessica Chastain approached Kinberg about creating a female-led action thriller in the vein of James Bond and Mission: Impossible. By the following summer, the film was presented to buyers at Cannes by Chastain and co-stars, an appealingly commercial package that was unsurprisingly snapped up fast. Almost four years later, after a delayed release as a result of Covid, whatever might have worked on paper fizzles out on screen, a gussied-up pile of schlock that wastes a cast who deserve so much better. Rather than being worthy of the collective might of Chastain, Lupita Nyong’o, Penélope Cruz, Diane Kruger and Bingbing Fan, it feels like the kind of bottom shelf dross that Bruce Willis and Jesse Metcalfe would sleepwalk through to pay the bills, piles of cash handed over via grubby manilla envelopes.

The derivative, stitched-together plot focuses on an all-powerful piece of tech that can hack into pretty much anything, crashing planes, tanking power grids and creating chaos for whomever its owner wants. Mace (Chastain) is an agent tasked with bringing it in along with her colleague and best friend Nick (Sebastian Stan). But the plan goes awry and Chastain is left as a lone wolf, forced into partnering with agents from around the world to figure out what happened and who is to blame.

It’s every bit as generic as that sounds, with a hapless, first-draft script from Kinberg and playwright Theresa Rebeck that fails to introduce any surprise, suspense or humour, coasting along on its stretched star cast and good intentions. The genre still remains heavily male-skewed of course but simply replacing male action heroes with women and then standing back waiting for applause isn’t quite enough. There’s been a very slow inch toward a tad more equality of late, with recent female-led streaming efforts like The Old Guard , Kate and Gunpowder Milkshake easily putting The 355 in the shade, and so beyond the logline “what if Bond but with women”, there’s not much else brought to the table. The film also can’t decide if it’s skewering the genre or conforming to it. In one scene, Chastain’s character ridicules the lack of reality in a 007 movie – “James Bond never has to deal with real life” – but just a scene later, just after travelling around the world in an unexplained army plane, the on-the-lam women arrive at a gala with new outfits, new wigs and new tech, reality nowhere to be seen.

Films such as The 355 live and die by the quality of their action set pieces and while there’s a propulsive pace to the proceedings, there’s never quite enough genuine excitement. The fight scenes, of which there are many, are shoddily captured despite game performers and so the action has a numbing effect, confusingly choreographed and ultimately rather boring. Chastain, who recently gave one of her finest performances in The Eyes of Tammy Faye , is a bit flat and muted here without any eccentricities to play with and so doesn’t really convince as the charismatic, take-no-prisoners lead inspiring a ragtag bunch of agents to follow her. There’s not much of interest for Nyong’o, Fan and particularly Cruz to chew on and so it’s Kruger who steals it, stepping in for the originally cast Marion Cotillard, doing a lot with very little. No one expects intricate character development with a barebones film such as this but there’s barely an attempt to even differentiate the characters outside of their nationalities, a film about strong women that reduces them to nobodies.

Like the films it aspires to be like, The 355 ends with the promise of more but even without an Omicron-hit box office and a cursed January release, it’s unlikely that audiences would be clamouring for a sequel. There will be worse films to come this year but not many will be quite as hard to remember by the end of it.

The 355 is out in US and UK cinemas on 7 January

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Review: Espionage team-up of ‘The 355’ fails to come together

Four women in evening dress walk together in the movie "The 355."

The Times is committed to reviewing theatrical film releases during the COVID-19 pandemic . Because moviegoing carries risks during this time, we remind readers to follow health and safety guidelines as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health officials .

As explained in “The 355,” a female spy known to history only by her code name 355 played a pivotal role in gathering intelligence against the British during the American Revolution. The film follows an international group of contemporary female intelligence agents who unite to track down a dangerous piece of technology before it falls into the wrong hands. Directed by Simon Kinberg from a script he co-wrote with Theresa Rebeck, the movie is low-energy entertainment that feels like a letdown given the talent involved.

Jessica Chastain , also a producer on the project, plays a hard-boiled CIA agent, while Diane Kruger plays her equally tough German counterpart. Lupita Nyong’o is a former British agent reluctantly brought back in, while Penélope Cruz plays a Colombian psychologist who has never worked in the field before. Chinese star Bingbing Fan is an operative of uncertain loyalties. As the five come together for a shared goal of saving the world — “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” as someone says — they find themselves on the run from various government agencies while in pursuit of violent arms dealers.

The storytelling and plotting feel pulled together from spare parts of recent “Mission: Impossible” and James Bond films, with a disavowal here and some light parkour there and multiple destabilizing double-crosses. The high-gloss sheen and glamour of those movies, with their spectacular international locales and operatic action, prove harder to replicate here. The action sequences feel a bit perfunctory and don’t provide the necessary punctuation to the rest of the story.

Four women direct their attention at a man sitting at a desk in a scene from the movie "The 355."

The film’s most notable addition is its attempt to acknowledge that these women have, need to have, lives outside their jobs, even with an occupation like international intelligence. Chastain’s character, reprising emotional beats from the performer’s role as a CIA analyst in “Zero Dark Thirty,” has long had only her work, and the story emphasizes her isolation. In a moment that becomes the picture’s thematic centerpiece, Chastain says, “James Bond never has to deal with real life” to which Nyong’o responds, “James Bond always ends up alone.”

Cruz finds the most to latch onto, bringing an authenticity to her stress while constantly checking in with her family back home and adding a light screwball dusting when her character must awkwardly flirt to gain information. Kruger comes across as the most at ease with the picture’s action, while Nyong’o seems to be having the most fun, bringing a much-needed energetic brio to the story.

The signified cool walk-off music that leads into the end credits (and leaves the door open for a sequel) is Peaches’ song “Boys Wanna Be Her,” also the theme music to the TV show “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee.” And that’s indicative of the larger problem with the movie, that everywhere it should feel risky and energizing, it instead feels familiar and a bit tired. Simply having women star in a sluggish iteration of an airport dad-novel espionage-action story is not inspiring on its own. Despite a few scattered moments, the team-up action of “The 355” never fully comes together.

Rated: PG-13, for sequences of strong violence, brief strong language, and suggestive material Running time: 2 hours, 4 minutes Playing: Starts Jan. 7 in general release

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Profile menu, the 355 review: a sleek, silly, and surprisingly fun female spy thriller.

Leah Greenblatt

There's a general idea in show business that January is where movies go to die, a dumpster month for studios looking to quietly burn off the cursed and broken projects still lingering in last year's outbox. The fact that The 355 has landed there twice now (it was originally scheduled for release at the start of 2021, then delayed for COVID) fits pretty neatly into that narrative: Why else would a big-budget action film starring a cadre of internationally famous actresses slink so quietly into the post-holiday wasteland? A bland marketing campaign didn't help; neither did a corny, almost comically generic trailer . So it's a nice surprise to find out that the movie (in theaters this Friday and on Peacock Feb. 25) is frequently fun and far smarter than your average January-boneyard bear — a sleek popcorn spy flick that deserves better than slow death by in-flight entertainment, though that's probably its destiny.

The story begins, purposefully or not, in a wash of testosterone: a Colombian drug lord, a malevolent-rich-guy buyer, a SWAT team swarm emerging from the jungle. Except the product for sale isn't powder; it's some of kind of dark-web data key powerful enough to take down entire city grids and make airplanes fall from the sky. (As in most movies like this, the technology is generally so advanced it might as well be a wizard wand). When the narco's smartphone-size death star lands in the hands of a scared SWAT member ( The Undoing 's Edgar Ramirez), CIA agents Mason "Mace" Brown ( Jessica Chastain ) and Nick Fowler ( Sebastian Stan ) are sent to Paris to retrieve it. Unfortunately, a German agent named Marie ( Diane Kruger ) has the same goal, and a better grasp of the French Metro system; the end-times key gets away.

In the aftermath Mace turns to an old friend, Khadijah ( Lupita Nyong'o ), a former MI6 agent now working in London as a TED-talky tech specialist. This is the kind of crime she's made for, but a second failed attempt leaves them only with fewer bullets and an extremely reluctant new field agent: Penelope Cruz 's Graciela, a staff psychologist for Colombian intelligence who would very much like to be excused from this narrative and go home to her husband and kids. Instead she's conscripted into the team, along with Marie ("the enemy of my enemy is my friend") and eventually Lin Mi Sheng (Chinese superstar Fan Bingbing), another agent with a singular gift for IT. Hot pursuits in Moroccan souks and Shanghai high-rises follow, as they are wont to do when the fate of the free world is at stake; so, inevitably, does female bonding and a not-small body count.

The script, by Simon Kinberg ( Mr. and Mrs. Smith , the X-Men franchise), who also directed, and Theresa Rebeck ( Smash ), is both ludicrous and functional: One-liners and weapons (a fist, a lamp, even an oyster shell) fly; double crosses are flipped and tripled back again. The familiar marks 355 hits  — sneering, stubbled villains; glittery international set pieces; things that go boom — follow the smoothed-down grooves of a thousand other thrillers, and everyone in it is so ridiculously good-looking they probably should have called it Only 10s . But the story moves along crisply, and the stars, who have all easily been in better films, elevate the material so breezily they tend to make even the most ludicrous moments float.

Also tucked into the broad flash and fight-clubbiness of the plot are keener little character notes: Chastain's Mace kills large men with calm efficiency, but when she's confronted with high scaffolding she stops to draw a sharp breath, then skip-walks like an awkward stork (or more refreshingly, a recognizable human). And Cruz's panicked, charming Graciela, the token civilian, finds uses for her therapy skills that actually make sense; when she and Nyong'o are on screen, it's not hard to remember there are at least two Oscars in the room. (The fact that all but one of the leads is over 40, though age is never mentioned or even implied, feels radical in its own way too). Maybe January will bury The 355 , but frankly it feels like the kind of movie bleak mid-winter was made for: Starry, silly escapism with pop-feminist flare and a passport. Grade: B

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Penélope Cruz, Diane Kruger, Bingbing Fan, Jessica Chastain, and Lupita Nyong'o in The 355 (2022)

When a top-secret weapon falls into mercenary hands, a wild-card C.I.A. agent joins forces with three international agents on a mission to retrieve it, while staying a step ahead of a myster... Read all When a top-secret weapon falls into mercenary hands, a wild-card C.I.A. agent joins forces with three international agents on a mission to retrieve it, while staying a step ahead of a mysterious woman who's tracking their every move. When a top-secret weapon falls into mercenary hands, a wild-card C.I.A. agent joins forces with three international agents on a mission to retrieve it, while staying a step ahead of a mysterious woman who's tracking their every move.

Official Trailer 2

Bingbing Fan

Diane Kruger

Lupita Nyong'o

Sebastian Stan

Edgar Ramírez

Jason Flemyng

Sylvester Groth

John Douglas Thompson

Leo Staar

Sebastián Capitán Viveros

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Mace : Hi Nick, do you remember the story they told us about in training? Washington's female agent, agent 355. That's what they called her?

Nick Fowler : Because they did not know her name.

Mace : No somebody knew her name. They just did not want the world to know it.

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Jessica Chastain charges at the camera as a crowd of men gawp in The 355

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The 355 continues the hot new streak of lousy lady action movies

Jessica Chastain, Diane Kruger, Penélope Cruz, Lupita Nyong’o, and Fan Bingbing are a strong team in a weak film

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Every portion of Simon Kinberg’s turgid, clumsy spy flick The 355 sounds good on paper: Five of Hollywood’s most acclaimed actresses come together to portray global intelligence officers fleeing from their respective governments, in a film melding Oceans 8 and the Jason Bourne, James Bond, and Mission: Impossible franchises with the recent trend toward aggressively female-fronted action films. (From 2021 alone: Kate , Gunpowder Milkshake , The Protégé , and Jolt .) In their unification, the women denote inclusion, empowerment, and validation. The 355 ’s nonsensical script, written by Theresa Rebeck and Kinberg, shoves those positives down audiences’ throats, without ever making them specific or insightful enough to signify anything.

For Kinberg, the writer of 2005’s Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie star vehicle Mr. & Mrs. Smith , the spy genre should be familiar territory. In fact, you can see him reaching for the same romantic dynamic between his leads here. CIA officers Mace (Jessica Chastain) and Nick (Sebastian Stan) open the film trying to recover a deadly data key being held in Paris by turned Colombian DNI agent Luis (Édgar Ramírez). Though Nick is smitten with Mace, and even proposes to her, she doesn’t want to give up her high-energy career in favor of a stable life. Chastain and Stan, unfortunately, are not Jolie and Pitt. They have all the chemistry of cheap red wine spilled on a white carpet.

Kinberg complicates the setup with a dull web of intrigue: Chastain and Stan are competing with other governments bidding to retrieve the data key. Their field agents include firmly independent German BDN agent Marie (Diane Kruger) and Graciela (Penélope Cruz), a married mother of two and DNI therapist who’s close to Luis and hoping to bring him back into the fold. The quartet are later betrayed by an unknown baddie whose identity doesn’t require much brain power to figure out. Their respective countries all believe they’ve become turncoats too, so to clear their names, Mace, Graciela, and Marie team with MI6 computer specialist Khadijah (Lupita Nyong’o) and Chinese MSS agent Lin Mi Sheng (Fan Bingbing).

Four of The 355’s five female super-spies stand around looking worried in formalwear

Of the quintet, Chastain is the least believable as a spy. When talking on her hidden earpiece, she often infuriatingly puts her hand nearly around her entire head, making her cover obvious in crowds. In the sequences where the five women try to infiltrate a Moroccan bazaar, costume designer Stephanie Collie opts for an ostentatious style over practicality, dressing Chastain in a giant white fedora and cream-colored suit. Who wouldn’t spot a lavishly dressed white woman who’s talking to herself, one hand covering her ear, amongst a bevy of plainly dressed brown folks?

The questionable costume decisions isn’t the only craft miscue. Though The 355 tries to maneuver with the kinetic verve of a globetrotting adventure, the marks of shooting on generic sets are all over this film. At times, the only visual difference between Shanghai and Morocco is whether the quintet of spies is standing in front of a wall with Arabic characters scrawled across it, or Chinese letters instead.

The action sequences also leave a lot to be desired. A foot chase involving Chastain and Stan in Paris, relying on sudden zooms and noxious handheld camera movements, rings as a hollow pastiche of the Jason Bourne shaky-cam action style, which is both a huge cliché for action films , and now passé. Another chase, winding through shipping containers and scaling up dock cranes, bears similarities to the epic construction setpiece in Casino Royale , but without the fun or quality.

It might be easier to stomach these lesser-than homages to superior films if The 355 ’s premise didn’t feel so dated. The data key the quintet wants to recover holds the ability to hack bank accounts, security systems, and information from across the world. It’s apparently the only one in existence. In Mace’s words, the device could let ill-intentioned countries exist in the shadows, rather than operating out in the open. This common technology isn’t new, though — it’s ubiquitous in real life. And the concept of unknown enemies wreaking havoc from behind the scenes is just as common in spy films, with movies like Skyfall and Enemy of the State addressing it in much more intriguing ways.

Lupita Nyong’o crouches behind a concrete pillar next to an unconscious man that she probably took down by being a badass in The 355

Kinberg tries to blend this stale concept within a feminist story with a well-meaning aim, but a ham-fisted execution. Without no setup to justify the leap, he calibrates these women’s mission as a unified battle against a misogynist system. But apart from the on-the-nose dialogue around the film’s conclusion — the baddie fumes to an operative: “You were beaten by a bunch of girls !” — Kinberg never gestures at any specific misogynist target to be addressed or defeated. He just cloyingly suggests that the mere idea of five women working together is inherently empowering.

A later fight scene that features the quintet of spies battling a rogue agent in a high-rise borrows heavily from Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol , but without the same verve or intensity. By this point, these stars, all solid performers in their own right, have carried an entire movie that’s beneath their talent. The work they put into physical training and nailing their fight choreography is visible. They accrue individual highlights: Cruz, in particular, offers a grounded performance. But at every turn, the filmmaking undermines them, from the empty compositions (like Netflix’s misbegotten action film Red Notice , The 355 relies on widescreen without filling the frame) to the unimaginative editing and queasy camera movement.

Kinberg desperately wants this spy adventure to operate on the same level as other venerable action franchises but it takes more than star power or even a worthy cause to accomplish such heights. That kind of quality requires careful plotting and thoughtful writing. (It’s never clear how these spies are able to travel around the world undetected in a modern surveillance state, after their respective governments have burned them.) The final scene, a gauche comeuppance for the sexist at the heart of this plot, involves the women looking at a happy family. They lament over how their accomplishments will never be known or remembered. It would be better, for all involved, unfortunately, if this ill-conceived movie was forgotten, too.

The 355 opens in theaters on Jan. 6.

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‘The 355’ Review: Exile in Bondville

Jessica Chastain, Penélope Cruz, Lupita Nyong’o, Diane Kruger and Fan Bingbing star in an espionage thriller that’s slick but banal.

From left, Penélope Cruz, Jessica Chastain, Diane Kruger and Lupita Nyong’o in “The 355.”

By Amy Nicholson

Two centuries before James Bond 007, there was Agent 355, a lady spy on George Washington’s side during the American Revolutionary War who helped identify the turncoat Benedict Arnold . Her name was hidden from history, but her code number has been claimed by this slick and grim espionage flick that aspires to become an all-star, all-female franchise — the Spice Girls version of Bond. Jessica Chastain, a producer and star of the movie, even used Twitter to crowdsource casting suggestions for a “#BondBoy.”

Why not? But we’re going to need a better plot than one built around a bunch of heroes and terrorists chasing after yet another doomsday gizmo. Chastain’s Mace Browne, a C.I.A. workaholic repulsed by romantic commitment, is hellbent on securing a one-of-a-kind cyber-whatsit able to hack into and hijack any computer-controlled device on the planet, from a power grid to a plane. This device could start World War III, Mace warns an MI6 computer whiz, Khadijah (Lupita Nyong’o), in a rusty clunker of a line that warns the audience that the only novelty in Simon Kinberg’s thriller is the cast. It doesn’t take a super sleuth to fill in the rest. There will be lectures on teamwork, confessions squeezed out “the easy way or the hard way” and speeches about the invisible front lines of modern warfare, all rote hubbub building toward a blowout gun battle that makes sure to set aside a bad boyfriend for a sequel.

But what a cast. Chastain and Nyong’o rumble with Diane Kruger, peer pressure Penélope Cruz and are struck dumb by Fan Bingbing , who saunters in halfway through to shake things up. Individually, the women represent the differing national security interests of the United States, England, Germany, Colombia and China; their pitiful male colleagues, however — the lovesick partner (Sebastian Stan) who uses a sting operation to make Mace playact as his fiancée, the distrustful boss (Sylvester Groth) who diagnoses Kruger’s near-feral street fighter with daddy issues — make a case for the women to form a feminist Brawlers Without Borders.

Kinberg and Theresa Rebeck’s screenplay races through five continents, and as many betrayals and switcheroos. (The cinematographer, Tim Maurice-Jones, seems most inspired by Shanghai’s iridescent neon blues.) The filmmaking deserves credit for refusing to leer as the ladies convincingly kick and punch — all focus is on the stunts, not on sex appeal.

Yet there’s a sense that “The 355” felt forced to pick between being sincere or being fun. It chose solemnity. As a result, it’s flat-footed even when the setups yearn to be playful. Viewers are not invited to giggle when a pursuit detours into a men-only bathhouse, or at a surreal moment in an undercover sequence when Chastain rips off her red wig disguise to reveal … her own identical red hair. The drums thunder as though they’re dead-serious about proving that women can make an expensive adventure that’s every bit as banal as the ones that boys crank out every month with basically the same plot. At least Cruz is allowed to get a laugh in a scene where her married soccer mom learns to flirt with a patsy. The twinkle in her eyes looks just like Sean Connery’s seductive gleam.

The 355 Rated PG-13 for copious male corpses. Running time: 2 hours 4 minutes. In theaters.

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reviews movie 355

Content Caution

Four female spies talk to a handler in an office.

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Movie Review

What do you do when someone creates a hard drive capable of hacking into any computer system in the world? It can crash planes, take down entire power grids, block communication networks, you name it.

Well, sending in your top government agents to steal it seems like a reasonable expectation.

Unfortunately, it’s not just one government that wants to get its hands on the drive. It’s all of them.

The United States sends a CIA agent named Mace. She teams up with Khadijah of England’s MI6. Marie works for Germany’s secret intelligence. China is represented by Lin Mi Sheng. And psychologist Graciela was sent by Colombia (where the drive originated).

At first, there’s no love lost between this international team of female agents. But after realizing they all have the same goal—to keep the drive out of the hands of terrorists—they decide to work together.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend, after all.

Positive Elements

The women of the 355 (a name I’ll revisit in the Conclusion) feel alone for much of the film. They’ve all faced betrayal and loss. However, by working together, they gradually discover camaraderie and kinship. Because even though they “look different and speak different,” they all have the same goal.

It goes without saying—but I’ll say it anyway—that each of these women is willing to put her own life on the line to save others and to save the world .

And it doesn’t take an espionage expert to identify The 355 ’s not-so-subtle message about female empowerment (albeit of a very violent variety, as we’ll see). As viewers, we’re invited to see men’s chauvinism and sexism as repulsive, such as one scene where one man insults another for getting “beaten by a bunch of girls.”

Someone notes that when you “live a life of lies, it’s hard to know what’s true and what isn’t.”

Spiritual Elements

Several women wear hijabs. A Muslim man states that Allah will save him before a woman points out the fallacies in his beliefs, given his recent violent actions.

Sexual Content

A couple makes out before removing clothing and climbing into bed (where we see the woman’s undergarments). Later, we see them lying in bed together, covered only by sheets in an obviously post-coital moment. A few other couples kiss. Women wear revealing dresses at a swanky auction. We see several men wrapped in towels at a bathhouse.

A married woman is forced to flirt with a man to get information out of him, though it makes her very uncomfortable. (She is later rescued from the difficult moment when one of her female friends links arms with her and suggestively says “Sorry, she’s with me.”)

Violent Content

Pretty much everyone in this movie has a gun and is willing to use it (including Graciela, though she conscientiously objects). Blood flows as people are mercilessly gunned down. The good guys seem to have a higher body count than the bad ones. But they do try to disarm rather than kill when fighting other agents.

We also see quite a bit of hand-to-hand combat (sometimes paired with knives), which starts feeling dicey when a tiny woman is thrown into furniture by a man twice her size and strength. Several people are also tackled.

Innocent bystanders get shoved aside and knocked down during several chase sequences. A man threatens to shoot into a crowd (which would undoubtedly kill many civilians) to make his point.

Several people are forced to watch their loved ones (who have been taken hostage) get shot in the head. Similarly, at one point, the women choose to hand over the drive to the bad guys to spare one of their own from watching her husband and children be murdered.

One woman repeatedly threatens to kill or maim her fellow agents. She shoots a man in his femoral artery—which would cause him to bleed out if left untreated—to get information.

Several men are blown up. A woman bites a man’s lip. Someone suggests a certain herb can be used for suicide. A man is poisoned.

Baddies demonstrate the power of the stolen disc drive by causing planes to crash. News sources call these “terrorist attacks,” and someone notes that the drive could start another world war. A woman says she accidentally killed a cow when she hit it with her car.

Crude or Profane Language

We hear a single use of the f-word as well as five uses of the s-word (and its foreign equivalents). We also hear uses of “a–hole,” “b–ch,” “d–n,” “h—,” “p-ss” and the British expletive “bloody.” God’s name is abused (once paired with “d–n”). Someone makes a crude hand gesture.

Drug and Alcohol Content

People drink throughout. It appears that a few women drink to wash away their pains—both literally and metaphorically. One man states he doesn’t drink while working when offered the option to do so. Someone gives a man a cigar.

Other Negative Elements

Secret agents (as well as the bad guys) lie, double-cross, steal, break into places and even commit treason.

One woman notes that she should be in therapy (though she isn’t), considering she turned her own father in for selling state secrets to the KGB. Another is repeatedly bullied into using a gun and putting herself in danger despite not being properly trained.

We hear that a man hid a phone in his anus to sneak it into a prison.

The 355 (both the film and the onscreen agency) takes its name from Agent 355, the codename of a female spy during the American Revolution. But that’s where any real-world connection with this spy flick comes to a screeching halt.

What we have in its place is a typical action thriller. And there’s plenty of violence to go around. It’s paired with some harsh (though not frequent) language and a bit of sensuality as well.

But really, the message of The 355 is weak . It wants audiences to believe that this is a type of Ocean’s Eleven meets James Bond movie, but with women . And it is. But you could have substituted any or all of these women with a male replacements, and the film wouldn’t have changed.

Maybe that’s what The 355 ’s moviemakers were aiming for here: a film that implicitly argues women can do anything men can do. But for me, at least, the things that differentiate men from women are the things that should’ve stood out to make this a good female action flick. Instead, this female-focused espionage actioner violently suggests the two genders are completely interchangeable.

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Emily Tsiao

Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and geeking out with her husband indulging in their “nerdoms,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything they love, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate and Lord of the Rings.

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‘The 355’ Review: Jessica Chastain, Sebastian Stan, and Penélope Cruz in a Vigorous Formula Action Spy Flick

It's a generic but energized out-of-the-frying-pan-into-the-fire thriller that mostly holds your attention.

By Owen Gleiberman

Owen Gleiberman

Chief Film Critic

The 355

It’s not usually a good idea to grade a movie on the curve of when it’s being released. But in the case of “ The 355 ,” one is tempted to make an exception and say: For a first-week-of-January thriller, it isn’t bad. Early January tends to be a dumping ground, because the prestige awards contenders are still opening wide; it’s when you’ll get a shark drama that’s too lousy to be a trashy summer movie. But “The 355” is a vigorous formula action spy flick with an out-of-the-frying-pan-into-the-fire plot that mostly holds your attention, periodically revs the senses, and gives its actors just enough to work with to put a basic feminine spin on the genre. I make a point of that because the film does too.

The heroines are a quartet of espionage veterans who come from different countries but share a certain rogue mystique. Mace ( Jessica Chastain ), who works for the CIA, is assigned to retrieve a data-key drive that can do anything (blow up a plane in midair, penetrate any closed computer system) and is therefore ripe to be stolen by an international band of criminal entrepreneurs. In Paris, where she’s supposed to pick up the drive from a Colombian mercenary (Édgar Ramirez), she’s accompanied by her long-time agent colleague, Nick ( Sebastian Stan ), who suggests that they shore up their undercover identities as honeymooning rubes by actually becoming a couple. To our surprise, Mace agrees — but thanks to the monkey wrench thrown into their plan by Marie (Diane Kruger), a rival German BND agent, the union doesn’t last.

For a while, Mace and Marie square off like the edgy renegades they are. But they’re soon joined by two fellow agents: Khadijah (Lupita Nyong’o), a semi-retired MI6 operative who works on the cutting edge of cyber-espionage, and Graciela (Penélope Cruz), the group’s token soft case, a Colombian DNI agent who’s really a psychologist who specializes in treating the trauma of her fellow agents.

The four join forces to hunt down the drive, a countdown-to-the-apocalypse-with-MacGuffin plot speckled with well-staged overwrought action. These ace operatives have been trained to do it all: windpipe-bashing combat, existential chases through the crowded squares of Morocco, drop-of-the-hat surveillance and, of course, flaunting an attitude of utilitarian iciness that’s a match for any male movie spy. The element that comes closest to giving the film a personality is that most of them aren’t satisfied with the lone-wolf bravado that comes of being an international woman of mystery. Their view seems to be: We’ve got the moves like Bond, but sociopathic isolation is for suckers.

As action storytelling, “The 355” is generic, over-the-top, and 20 minutes too long, kind of like a Netflix movie. But it’s the well-made version of that corporate brew. Chastain has recently been showing a lighter side; her performance in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” has an operatic playfulness, and in “The 355,” which she’s one of the producers of, you can feel the pleasure she takes in letting her hair down and biting into the role of haughty action heroine. Kruger has the moxie to play Marie as a standoffish neurotic, Nyong’o creates an unusually emotional hacker, and Cruz, as the one who’s more devoted to her family than to global realpolitik, proves the sweetest of wild cards. The less revealed about what happens to Sebastian Stan’s Nick the better, though he plays it with a baby-faced malice that’s hard to resist.

In the second half, the director, Simon Kinberg (“X-Men: Dark Phoenix”), takes his heroines to Shanghai, where they have to retrieve the drive from an art auction that’s a cover for a dark-web bidding war, which makes the film feel a bit like a heist thriller. So does the arrival of Bingbing Fan as a Chinese undercover agent who joins the team. But no “Ocean’s” sequel ever had this much machine-gun battle. Kinberg pads the film out with what some might call bravura action scenes, but while they’re tightly choreographed and edited, the fact that we haven’t seen women go through these paces nearly as often as men doesn’t make the scenes any less heavy (or noisy) in their bombast. The idea, of course, is that the action is going to sell the movie. But you have to wonder: If “The 355,” named for an anonymous female agent during the time of the American Revolution, were closer to a movie like “Widows,” which it sometimes resembles, and further from an “Expendables” sequel, it might actually have been more commercial. A January movie doesn’t have to give us too much of an okay thing.

Reviewed online, Jan. 5, 2022. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 122 MIN.

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The 355 Is Proof That Women Can Make Middling Action Movies, Too

Portrait of Alison Willmore

No actor working today is haunted by the Strong Female Character the way Jessica Chastain is haunted by the Strong Female Character. You know the type — an aloof, hyper-competent exterior hiding some instance of formative trauma, and no time for anything so frivolous as romance unless it leads to betrayal or tragedy. To be a woman working as an actor is to engage in an ongoing, exhausting quest for material that’s strongly written, or at least not rife with lingering stereotypes. Chastain’s not exempt from that struggle, but the more power she’s had over the parts she chooses, the more she’s gravitated towards ones that, in their attempt to counter sexist clichés, have created a whole set of new ones. The character she plays in the lady spy drama The 355 , a project she proposed and produced, is a steely CIA agent who’s introduced cheerfully beating up a colleague at the Langley gym when a new assignment arrives. Mace is a loner whose life revolves around her job and whose only confidant is her partner and best friend Nick (Sebastian Stan), who she falls into bed with right before the supposedly easy operation they’re on goes wrong and appears to leave him dead.

I’m making this sound more dire than it actually is. The 355 isn’t a total disaster — how can it be, when its cast includes Lupita Nyong’o as Khadijah, a tech-specialist who’s formerly of MI6, and Penélope Cruz as Graciela, a psychologist working for Colombia’s DNI? But its dullness somehow feels worse than grand failure, as though its aims were only to prove that a bunch of the most famous women on Earth can come together to make an action film just as uninspired and boring as men can. The 355 was directed by X-Men: Dark Phoenix ’s Simon Kinberg, who wrote the script with Smash creator Theresa Rebeck, and he’s genuinely terrible with fight sequences, which is a real issue in a movie that has a lot of them. Set pieces are chopped to barely legible bits in an effort to disguise stunt doubles, punches look blatantly pulled, it’s frequently unclear where characters are in relation to one another during chases, and somehow these globe-trotting badasses are all made to look awkward when carrying a gun.

Kinberg’s only other directing credit is for the aimless X-Men: Dark Phoenix , in which Chastain played the villain Vuk. His utter lack of any affinity for this kind of material speaks to the movie’s conflicted aims. Despite pulling together a Fox Force Five–esque ensemble of international stars — Diane Kruger and Fan Bingbing round out the international ensemble as German BND member Marie and MSS agent Lin Mi Sheng — The 355 isn’t a stylized exercise reveling in the fabulousness of its cast. Aside from some nifty suits on Nyong’o, there’s shockingly little of the sensory pleasure, much less the fun you’d get from a Bond movie. The film aims to be something closer to Bourne, with its chase sequences on stolen motorbikes and a whole middle sequence set in Morocco, but it has none of Paul Greengrass’s kinetic brilliance or, failing that, the choreography that’s made more recent films from David Leitch and Chad Stahelski so thrilling. The 355 is determinedly without thrills, though as its characters chase a tech MacGuffin that can crash planes and bring down computer systems, they do trudge through their respective bits of backstory as though it were a chore to get out of the way.

Mace contends with the loss of the only person in her life. Graciela frets about her husband and kids back home. Khadijah has a partner who actually knows about her former life in the field. Marie (Kruger) has issues surrounding the father she turned in herself as a traitor. And Lin Mi Sheng (Fan) is the kind of personality-free embodiment of Chinese power that occasionally gets popped into would-be blockbusters now despite feeling insulting to everyone involved. The script includes hoary phrasing as though it’s required: “We can do it the easy way, or we can do it the hard way,” Mace tells a suspect before she and the other women interrogate and torture him. “That’s the thing with partners — they get killed, or they kill you,” Marie intones during a lull in the non-action. None of this is as painful as the coda, when the film leans into the girlbossery that it previously mostly skirted, with Mace declaring to a foe that the identity of Agent 355, the female spy who worked for George Washington during the American Revolution, remains unknown because “someone knew her name, they just didn’t want the world to know it.” The 355 is, ultimately, a movie about how women are underappreciated in their roles of using violence to prop up their respective states, and its climax finds Mace triumphantly sending someone off to a black site after besting him by drinking her liquor straight. She’s not like the other girls, you see? Yaasss.

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Stream It Or Skip It: ‘The 355’ on VOD, a By-the-Numbers Girl Power Action Flick Anchored by Jessica Chastain

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While making X-Men: Dark Phoenix , star Jessica Chastain and director Simon Kinberg spitballed an idea for a female-fronted action/spy film, and the result is The 355 , currently on VOD before its planned Peacock debut. The film is notable for surrounding Chastain with talent: Lupita Nyong’o, Diane Kruger, Penelope Cruz and Fan Bingbing, with Sebastian Stan as the token male who’s notable, but not notable enough to get his name on the poster. Theatrically, it was a dud, snowed under by Spider-Man hoopla and a sense that it wasn’t about to reinvent the modern action picture. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not worth a stream at home, right? Mmmmaybe.


The Gist: Subtitle: 150 MILES SOUTH OF BOGOTA, COLOMBIA. Since no character in the opening scene is even remotely important, let me introduce you to the MacGuffin, a “cyber key,” a small plastic rectangle about the size of a Nokia phone circa 2008. It is deadlier than a nuclear bomb strapped to an even bigger nuclear bomb. Plug it into a computer, and it can virus, trojan and/or worm its way into any system and pull it down like pants in a porno. See that plane in the air? Tap click click tap, kaboom, it explodes. Some shit goes down and the recognizable actor in the room, Edgar Ramirez, makes off with the doohickey. Soon enough, the world’s many spy agencies will be alerted to the existence of the whatsit, so the movie can thunder far-flung locales across the bottom of the screen as drones hover over cities, filming cities doing city things like standing there, emitting light and making honking noises.

Subtitle: CIA HEADQUARTERS, LANGLEY VIRGINIA, as opposed to what, the CIA headquarters in Springfield, Kentucky? We meet agent Mace, short for Mason Browne (Chastain), as she wallops a sparring partner. She’s best pals with her colleague Nick (Stan), except that they fall into bed with each other before they pose as a tourist couple in the city where they track the doohickey, PARIS, FRANCE, as opposed to Paris, Texas, because it’s important to differentiate these things, although the Eiffel Tower is usually a giveaway. They’re not the only ones sniffing out the thingamajig, as they have a run-in with Bundesnachrichtendienst agent Marie Schmidt (Kruger), who predictably exclaims “Scheisse!” when she doesn’t acquire the doodad, and finds herself in scenes set in BERLIN, GERMANY, which, to be absolutely clear, is not Berlin, New Brunswick.

Mace can’t do this herself, so she calls her associate Khadijah Adiyeme (Nyong’o), an MI6 agent in LONDON, ENGLAND, not London, Seychelles. The chase for the thingy also implicates Colombian National Intelligence Directorate agent Graciela Rivera (Cruz), who isn’t a bang-bang run-and-gun type, but a psychologist who, one can only assume, offers psychotherapy on the fly as her fellow agents leap out of helicopters and such. THAT sounds like a good movie: “Tell me about your” (ducks RPG) “relationship with your father.” (Explosion in the background)

Anyhow. Mace, Marie, Khadijah and Graciela trace the artilugio to MARRAKESH, MOROCCO, which definitely isn’t Marrakesh, Mississippi, because this Marrakesh is very tan and sun-baked. But we haven’t fully assembled the Super Friends yet – there’s also Chinese Ministry of State Security agent Lin Mi Sheng (Bingbing), who’s in SHANGHAI, CHINA, and I know we’re not all geography majors here, but come the f— on . Throughout all this racking-up of frequent flier miles, there are several instances where the bad guys have opportunities to ruthlessly kill key characters in order to enact their evil plans, but don’t, undermining that very ruthlessness for the sake of the movie not reaching a conclusion too soon, and also being a huge bummer. Without giving away too much, let’s just say there’s an emphasis on the women out-punching and -shooting the antagonists instead of outwitting them, so you know what you’re getting into here.

What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: The 355 – named after a real-life American Revolution-era code word for a still-unnamed female spy – takes the convoluted shenanigans of the Bourne and Mission: Impossible films, and girl-ifies them, a la Ocean’s 8 or maybe Widows .

Performance Worth Watching: The barely written characters don’t give this cast much meat to gnaw off the bone here – too bad, because Nyong’o and Chastain are among the best at what they do, and this movie gives them not much to do beyond the shooting and whatnot, and a scene or two of ineffective emotional purging. So let’s just say Chastain’s attempt to reinvent herself as an action star (see also: the duds Ava and her brief X-Men stint) hasn’t quite taken flight yet.

Memorable Dialogue: Mace and Khadijah discuss the latter’s attempt to have a life outside spy shit, like, with an S.O. and everything:

Mace: That’s real love, huh? Khadijah: That’s real life , Mace. Mace: James Bond never has to deal with real life. Khadijah: James Bond always ends up alone.

Sex and Skin: Only morning-after snuggles.

Our Take: The 355 is overplotted but underwritten, a globetrotting chase flick with plenty of halfway-decent action sequences but minimal reasons for us to care about the characters’ fates. Sure, Khadijah has a life partner and Graciela has children, so cue the requisite scene in which the bad guys point guns at them – a scene so boilerplate, we don’t really get all that upset, since we’re being exploited for our base emotional concerns. That exploitation extends to the overall conflict, where nefarious agents fight over the ability to destroy billions of lives while on the couch, mindlessly scrolling their phone as Emily in Paris autoplays in front of them. I shrug, and argue that Thanos destroying half the known Marvel Universe upped the ante for mega-scale movie conflicts. Maybe it’s time for movies to generate suspense from situations that are fathomably smaller-scale?

There’s much to be said for action films that are more style than story – see John Wick or Mad Max: Fury Road , and feel the invigoration of the form. Kinberg dials up a few rock-solid moments that less demanding audiences may find perfectly suitable for an evening of light escapism. But otherwise, this is a switchbackin’, doublecrossin’, rug-pullin’, plot-holin’ story that does exactly what we expect it to: confound us with its needless complications (leave this M.O. for M:I , I say), take a passing glance at a feminist issue (can women be kickass world-saving do-gooders and have personal lives? Answer: It depends!) and force a cheer for the assemblage of a no-dudes-allowed superagent team (GROSB: Get Rid Of Slimy Boys). Color me underwhelmed.

Our Call: I’m waffling here. The 355 doesn’t really come close to meeting its potential, so SKIP IT. But if you’re not ponying up 20 bucks, it’s possibly an entirely passable yeah-sure-why-not kind of watch.

Will you stream or skip the girl power action movie #The355 on VOD? #SIOSI — Decider (@decider) February 5, 2022

John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Read more of his work at .

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reviews movie 355

Screen Rant

The 355 review: trite spy movie is shallow & entirely missable.

The 355 is an entertaining if unremarkable spy movie, with predictable story beats and mediocre action that's only somewhat saved by its strong cast.

Spy movies are no strangers to Hollywood, but  The 355  flips the script and trades in a typically male-fronted cast for an all-women team. Starring Jessica Chastain, Lupita Nyong'o, Diane Kruger, Penélope Cruz and Fan Bingbing, The 355 follows in the trend of movies like Ocean's 8 and Atomic Blonde —  though it's not based on a preexisting franchise — by subverting cast expectations within the spy genre. The film was directed by Simon Kinberg ( Dark Phoenix ), who co-wrote the script with Theresa Rebeck ( Smash ) from a story by Rebeck and Bek Smith ( Maleficent: Mistress of Evil ). The 355 is an entertaining if unremarkable spy movie, with predictable story beats and mediocre action that's only somewhat saved by its strong cast.

The 355 follows Mace Brown (Chastain), a CIA operative tasked with retrieving a hard drive from defected Colombian DNI agent Luis (Édgar Ramirez) that could usher in the end of the world if it falls into the wrong hands. However, her operation goes awry when German BND agent Marie (Kruger) also attempts to recover the drive, which causes trouble for Mace and her partner Nick (Sebastian Stan). When the drive is stolen from Luis, Mace must team up with Marie, former MI6 agent Khadijah (Nyong'o), DNI psychologist Graciela (Cruz) and Chinese MSS agent Lin Mi Sheng (Fan) in order to get it back and prevent the global destruction it could cause.

Related:  Every Movie Coming To Theaters In January 2022

Because Hollywood has been making spy movies for many decades, it can be difficult for filmmakers to offer something completely fresh and original. Even Atomic Blonde , which was hailed as a breath of fresh air in the action genre, was compared to John Wick . With The 355 , Kinberg and Rebeck don't make much of a case for it with regards to offering something different.  The 355's main point of differentiation is that it's a women-led team, but its story could've been pulled from any number of previous spy movies, with entirely predictable twists that viewers will be able to see coming a mile away. Unfortunately, Kinberg and Rebeck offer little reason to check out The 355 .

For the film's part, however, the cast is compelling to watch. Chastain's Mace falls victim to the issue of a story's main character being the least interesting one, with her primary characteristic being that she doesn't have any personal attachments. Kruger has much more to work with as Marie, a German agent who turned in her rogue father at a young age. Similarly one note are Khadijah and Graciela, who are the opposites of Mace and Marie, both having personal attachments in the form of significant others and families, making them reluctant to get involved. Fan's character gets the least amount of screen time of the leads, leaving her with little to work with as well. But whereas the characters aren't particularly complex, the dynamic of the group is entertaining to watch as their various personalities clash or come together. Individually, they aren't very compelling, but as a group they're fun to watch.

Half the sell of any action spy movie is the action, but The 355 doesn't offer much in the way of memorable action scenes. They're serviceable, with the cast and stunt crew doing a good enough job to keep viewers watching. Because of The 355 's PG-13 rating, the movie lacks the brutality of some other entries in the genre, and with the derivative script, Kinberg's film would've benefitted from more captivating action sequences. As it stands, the action sequences are largely unexceptional, not even managing to rise above the less-than-clever script. Perhaps the most interesting thing about The 355 is its lack of gratuitous violence toward women, though the leads get into plenty of scrapes throughout the course of their mission. However, the goodwill of that lack of violence is lost through a number of contrived lines and pandering to a shallow idea of "girl boss" spies.

Ultimately, The 355 is an okay action movie that doesn't set itself apart from the pack of spy films. As a result, those interested in the cast would be fine checking it out — if they feel safe to do so in a theater or by waiting until its home release. But those who aren't intrigued by the premise or the cast would also be fine skipping this one. The 355 proves it's not enough for Hollywood to increase the number of women in a typically male-dominated genre. A compelling story, characters, and exciting action are necessary.

Next: The 355 Movie Trailer

The 355 will release in theaters on Thursday evening, January 6. It is 124 minutes long and rated PG-13 for sequences of strong violence, brief strong language, and suggestive material.

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The Crowded Room review: a series of miscalculations

Alex Welch

“The Crowded Room is a psychological thriller that doesn't have much to offer when it comes to thrills or surprises.”

Throughout the first half of its 10-episode season, The Crowded Room does not have a story. It has a twist, which it drags out for nearly six hours. In doing so, the new Apple TV+ series leaves its two immensely capable leads, Amanda Seyfried and Tom Holland, stranded with nothing to do but be vessels for The Crowded Room ’s endless exposition dumps. When it’s later revealed that not everything is as it seemed in the show’s first half, it’s hard not to realize in the same breath just how much more interesting The Crowded Room could have been if it had simpy played it straight from the very beginning.

Unfortunately, these kinds of miscalculations are present in all of The Crowded Room ’s 10 episodes. Even when the series has reached some of its most moving and compelling moments — most of which occur in its final few installments — it dampens their impact with “twists” that not only come across as frustratingly hokey, but also seem to exist solely to justify The Crowded Room ’s overlong 10-hour runtime. There’s an intriguing, well-acted series in The Crowded Room . The problem is that it’s buried under 6 hours’ worth of unnecessary filler.

Loosely inspired by Daniel Keyes’ 1981 nonfiction novel The Minds of Billy Milligan , The Crowded Room picks up with its lead, Danny Sullivan (Holland), after he is arrested for participating in a public shooting that leaves three people injured. Following his arrest, Danny catches the attention of interrogator Rya Goodwin (Seyfried), who conducts a series of one-on-one interviews with him in the hopes of unearthing the truth behind the crime. The Crowded Room uses these interviews as a way into its numerous flashbacks, which gradually reveal exactly how Danny went from being a relatively sweet kid born and raised in upstate New York to a hostile shooter.

Along the way, The Crowded Room , which comes from A Beautiful Mind writer Avika Goldsman, introduces viewers to a handful of key figures in Danny’s life, including his stepfather Marlin, (Will Chase); his mother, Candy (Emmy Rossum); a free-spirited partier named Ariana (Sasha Lane), and his Israeli landlord, Yitzak (Lior Raz). In its early episodes, The Crowded Room primarily focuses on the time Danny spent living with the latter two characters. To say anything more here about their roles, though, would be to spoil many of the surprises that The Crowded Room spends a considerable amount of time trying to hold on to.

The problem is that many of The Crowded Room ’s twists are painfully obvious from the moment the show begins. Even those who have no knowledge of the 1981 novel that served as the series’ inspiration will likely find themselves catching on quickly to the revelation that The Crowded Room essentially grounds the first and second halves of its season around. That, in turn, makes the show’s needlessly long runtime feel alternately confounding and irritating.

Once it’s done away with its initial façade, The Crowded Room picks up quite a bit in its second half, which adopts an increased focus on actors like Seyfried and Christopher Abbott, who shows up late in the series as Danny’s lawyer and makes one of the biggest impressions of any of its cast members. Seyfried, for her part, is given so little to do in The Crowded Room ’s first five episodes that it is, at first, hard to understand why she agreed to star in the series, especially coming off her career-best turn in last year’s The Dropout .

When Rya is actually allowed to start driving the series’ narrative forward, it becomes easier to see why Seyfried was drawn to the role. Her work in the series’ final third, particularly her scenes with Abbott, Holland, and Rossum, just further cements Seyfried’s place as one of the most underrated and capable screen actresses working right now. Overall, The Crowded Room is often at its best when it is at its most empathetic, which is why Seyfried’s Rya, whose interest in Holland’s Danny extends far beyond her own professional curiosity, is so key to many of its best moments.

As for Holland himself, quite a lot of noise has been made about the effect his role here had on him. It’s clear from the moment The Crowded Room begins that the Spider-Man star fully threw himself into the splintered headspace of his character, however, The Crowded Room spends so much time trying to dance around the emotional realities of Danny’s life that it ends up wasting Holland. It’s only in the series’ final three episodes that the actor is finally able to portray all the aspects of Danny that likely made him an appealing character in the first place. Once he’s allowed to do so, it’s made blindingly clear just how much better The Crowded Room could have been if it had just been written as a four- or six-episode limited series.

Cutting down its number of episodes would have allowed The Crowded Room to excise some of its most trying installments, which include an episode-long excursion to London that might as well have been titled Filler . The show could have similarly lost a handful of late-season twists that are clearly meant to heighten its stakes and tension, but mostly come across as cheesy and hackneyed. While Rossum, Jason Isaacs, and Emma Laird do their best to breathe real life into some of The Crowded Room ’s supporting figures, their performances suffer due to the show’s indecisive characterizations of their roles.

The same can be said for The Crowded Room itself, which suffers from an unevenness that is present in nearly every aspect of it. The show is, in a bit of a tragically ironic twist of fate, brought down by its own conflicting impulses. On the one hand, it’s a series that desperately wants to imbue its characters’ journeys with as much empathy and heart as it can. On the other, it’s a wannabe genre experiment that feels the need to tell its story in the most overcomplicated manner possible. Ultimately, the most interesting thing about The Crowded Room is just how resolutely it refuses to get out of its own way.

The first three episodes of The Crowded Room are now streaming on Apple TV+. New episodes premiere weekly. Digital Trends was given early access to all 10 of the series’ episodes.

Editors' Recommendations

Alex Welch

Entergalactic isn’t like most other animated movies that you’ll see this year — or any year, for that matter. The film, which was created by Scott Mescudi a.k.a. Kid Cudi and executive producer Kenya Barris, was originally intended to be a TV series. Now, it’s set to serve as a 92-minute companion to Cudi’s new album of the same name. That means Entergalactic not only attempts to tell its own story, one that could have easily passed as the plot of a Netflix original rom-com, but it does so while also featuring several sequences that are set to specific Cudi tracks.

Beyond the film’s musical elements, Entergalactic is also far more adult than viewers might expect it to be. The film features several explicit sex scenes and is as preoccupied with the sexual politics of modern-day relationships as it is in, say, street art or hip-hop. While Entergalactic doesn’t totally succeed in blending all of its disparate elements together, the film’s vibrantly colorful aesthetic and infectiously romantic mood make it a surprisingly sweet, imaginative tour through a fairytale version of New York City.

Andrew Dominik’s Blonde opens, quite fittingly, with the flashing of bulbs. In several brief, twinkling moments, we see a rush of images: cameras flashing, spotlights whirring to life, men roaring with excitement (or anger — sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference), and at the center of it all is her, Marilyn Monroe (played by Ana de Armas), striking her most iconic pose as a gust of wind blows up her white dress. It’s an opening that makes sense for a film about a fictionalized version of Monroe’s life, one that firmly roots the viewer in the world and space of a movie star. But to focus only on de Armas’ Marilyn is to miss the point of Blonde’s opening moments.

As the rest of Dominik’s bold, imperfect film proves, Blonde is not just about the recreation of iconic moments, nor is it solely about the making of Monroe’s greatest career highlights. It is, instead, about exposure and, in specific, the act of exposing yourself — for art, for fame, for love — and the ways in which the world often reacts to such raw vulnerability. In the case of Blonde, we're shown how a world of men took advantage of Monroe’s vulnerability by attempting to control her image and downplay her talent.

Meet Cute wants to be a lot of things at once. The film, which premieres exclusively on Peacock this week, is simultaneously a manic time travel adventure, playful romantic comedy, and dead-serious commentary on the messiness of romantic relationships. If that sounds like a lot for one low-budget rom-com to juggle — and within the span of 89 minutes, no less — that’s because it is. Thanks to the performance given by its game lead star, though, there are moments when Meet Cute comes close to pulling off its unique tonal gambit.

Unfortunately, the film’s attempts to blend screwball comedy with open-hearted romanticism often come across as hackneyed rather than inspired. Behind the camera, director Alex Lehmann fails to bring Meet Cute’s disparate emotional and comedic elements together, and the movie ultimately lacks the tonal control that it needs to be able to discuss serious topics like depression in the same sequence that it throws out, say, a series of slapstick costume gags.  The resulting film is one that isn't memorably absurd so much as it is mildly irritating.

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Jean ( Rosy McEwen ) is dying her hair blonde on a quiet night in. The only noise is the sound of a dating show on her television. Her eyes are blue, but soon we notice that so much of the world around her is also blue. Her bathroom is a pretty pale blue, and so is her jacket, the P.E. uniform at the school where she teaches—which also has blue walls. Her car is a darker shade of blue, and the lights of her favorite club are mostly blue. The palette gives the movie its title but beyond its creative premise, Georgia Oakley ’s “Blue Jean” uses its melodic visual aesthetic as part of the story. It immerses the viewer in the cold, isolated feelings of Jean’s repressed existence in late 1980s England when Margaret Thatcher was about to sign legislation to ostracize the gay and lesbian community. Jean's neighbors and family give her funny looks, and she has to suffocatingly hide who she is from her coworkers. 

With her feature debut, director Oakley uses an incredible amount of detail in bringing to life the characters she’s written and the painstaking efforts to color code her sets, costumes, and lighting to get just the right emotional tone and shades of '80s pastels. Her style is reminiscent of another British filmmaker, Joanna Hogg , who also takes great pains crafting gorgeous compositions for her frame. Other than blue, from blue grays to saturated deep blues, the color that makes the second most notable appearance is pink, as if emphasizing the rigid gender expectations society, her co-workers, and relatives have for Jean. Her much more feminine coworker and sister wear shades of pink with ease, but Jean is off in her blue world and its blue hues. The two colors contrast, yet Victor Seguin’s cinematography incorporates them flawlessly into a dreamlike vision shot on 16mm. Jean’s story may be heartbreaking, but Oakley and her crew’s technical work is awe-inspiring. 

What little breathing room Jean enjoys outside her home extends only to queer safe spaces like the lesbian bar where she shoots pool and drinks with friends or her girlfriend’s home with other lesbian roommates. Even then, Jean still doesn’t look fully comfortable switching from passing straight at work to being herself, occasionally looking around as if afraid to be caught. She panics over her girlfriend, Viv ( Kerrie Hayes ), and her much more out and proud behavior. Jean worries she’ll lose her job at the school if they find out she’s a lesbian, and the feeling only intensifies when a new lesbian student arrives and starts visiting Jean’s favorite nightspot. Jean’s efforts to push the young girl back into conformity backfire, forcing her to reckon with hiding her identity. 

McEwen brings Jean’s complex inner conflict to life with every measured stare and carefully guarded pose. Her body language is as tense as a trip wire, set to snap at any second, which is radically different from the energy Hayes gives Viv, an unapologetically tattooed and head-shaved punk ready to return dirty stares with a flirtatious one. She’s not one to be intimidated, but Jean sadly lives in a perpetual state of caution, bringing problems to their relationship.  

“Blue Jean” may be a period piece, but it’s timely as LGBTQ rights regress in both the U.K. and the U.S., with the rhetoric of “save the children” once again weaponized against the queer community. Jean’s central struggle to come out or continue hiding to save her job is a problem she agonizes over throughout the movie, turning down invites to go to the pub with coworkers and guarding herself against being associated with other lesbians. Jean quickly retreats when a bully torments new student Lois ( Lucy Halliday ) or when Viv calls her at work. “I know it seems unfair, but I’m trying to help you,” Jean insists when coaching Lois to avoid doing anything that may draw attention. Through their shared experiences, the movie’s scope widens, showing the difficulty of living as a queer person when homophobia is internalized, in person, on the news, and practically in the air. At one point, Viv angrily confronts Jean about her efforts to kick Lois out of the lesbian bar, “How is that girl going to know she has a place in this world?” And sadly, it seems as if more and more people today are forced to ask a similar question. 

Oakley’s care and McEwen’s intense performance make “Blue Jean” one of this year’s most impressive movies. It deals with so much heartbreak without as many words; its pain is communicated through its somberly beautiful palette and performances. In addition to Soraya Gilanni's production design and Kirsty Halliday's costumes, the film’s soundtrack immerses the audience in the era's music, with songs that range from new wave tracks like New Order’s “Blue Monday” and Pink Rhythm’s “Melodies of Love” to the disco-tinged delights of Jimmy Ross’ “First True Love Affair (Larry Levan Remix)” and the punk beat of The Larks U.K.’s “Maggie Maggie Maggie Out Out Out.” But as Jean argues with her sister about holding onto her old wedding photo and shrinks behind her coworkers bad-mouthing gays and lesbians like her, the focus returns to her face, carefully obscuring her outrage, and tallies the day-to-day indignities she endures to fight for a place in a society that still rejects her. She’s powerless to change the world around her, but as we watch Jean find her strength, we see what’s possible when we make the world more accepting of ourselves and others.   

Now playing in theaters. 

Monica Castillo

Monica Castillo

Monica Castillo is a freelance writer and University of Southern California Annenberg graduate film critic fellow. Although she originally went to Boston University for biochemistry and molecular biology before landing in the sociology department, she went on to review films for The Boston Phoenix, WBUR, Dig Boston, The Boston Globe, and co-hosted the podcast “Cinema Fix.” 

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Blue Jean movie poster

Blue Jean (2023)

Rosy McEwen as Jean

Kerrie Hayes as Viv

Lucy Halliday as Lois

Lydia Page as Siobhan

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Animated versions of Shameik Moore and Hailee Steinfeld share a scene in “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,” already one of the biggest 2023 movies.

The best summer 2023 movies list is here — our critic picks the top 10 you can’t miss

Including “barbie,” “the flash,” and summer’s most anticipated horror movie..

Peter Howell

The prime summer months between now and Labour Day are normally a season to shudder for cinephiles. Blockbusters and low-wattage comedies and horrors rule the roost as we await the September arrival of prestige pictures and the start of awards season.

This summer promises something different. Movies that seem on the surface to be product-hustling popcorn amusements — I’m looking at you, “Barbie” — might actually have something deeper going on. Here’s hoping.

There’s already serious Oscar talk for at least three films newly arrived in theatres or heading there: animated adventure “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,” romantic drama “Past Lives” and historical epic “Oppenheimer,” as varied a selection as you could ask for.

The next three months also give us a chance to say goodbye to Indiana Jones (played by Harrison Ford, 80) and welcome back to Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise, 60), as both of these enduring action heroes set out to save the planet in the marquee-filling “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” and “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One.”

All of the above are among my Top 10 picks of films to anticipate this summer, along with another 10 good bets from the dozens of theatre-bound offerings. Five of these films I’ve already seen; I’ve included star ratings for them. Release dates are subject to change.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (now playing)

Animated versions of Hailee Steinfeld (L) and Shameik Moore (R) in "Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse," already one of the biggest 2023 movies.

Extraordinary animation and muscular transformations make the continuing Spidey saga(s) of Brooklyn teen Miles Morales and his family, friends and foes even more of a marvel. Directors Joaquim Dos Santos, Justin K. Thompson and Kemp Powers approach this first part of a sequel to the 2018 multiverse adventure (Part 2 comes next year) as a series of colliding comic books, with many worlds, moods and characters — there are dozens of Spider-Men and multiple Spider-Women and villains. Pulling the web strands together is the heart and humour of the characters, especially Shameik Moore’s earnest Miles and his friend and romantic fascination Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld), a.k.a. Spider-Woman in another realm.

Past Lives (June 9)

Greta Lee stars in "Past Lives," one of the most critically acclaimed 2023 movies so far this year.

This darling of the winter festival circuit — it garnered raves at Sundance and Berlin — hits theatres with sighs of wistful romance, triangular complications and the promise of a story well told. The feature debut of writer/director Celine Song, a Korean-Canadian playwright drawing in part from her own history, is a “what if?” tale of life choices that become momentous as years pass. Devoted childhood friends Nora and Hae Sung lose touch when Nora’s family emigrates from Seoul to Canada. As an adult, played by Greta Lee (“Russian Doll”), she’s a budding writer living in New York with her novelist husband, Arthur (John Magaro, “First Cow”). Life is good, but Skype sessions with Nora’s old flame Hae Sung (Teo Yoo) dissolve distance and decades, leading to thoughts about paths taken and forsaken.

The Flash (June 16)

Ezra Miller in"The Flash," poised to be the biggest superhero movie of summer 2023.

A series of real-life misdeeds has a contrite Ezra Miller looking for reinvention , and this Flash-first contribution to the DC Extended Universe, directed by Andy Muschietti, provides it with heart and humour. Miller ably plays three characters: the title speedster superhero and two squabbling versions of Barry Allen, his nerdy alter-ego. A time-travel mistake, made to undo family tragedy, alters The Flash’s world and prompts Krypton villain General Zod (Michael Shannon) to attack. Barry One must convince Barry Two to become The Flash — it’s sort of a reverse origin saga — while also persuading Michael Keaton’s Batman to come out of retirement. The story gets messy — multiple cameos and a rushed intro for Sasha Calle as Supergirl — but I like how it follows Keaton’s war cry: “Let’s get nuts.”

Asteroid City (June 23)

Scarlett Johansson in Wes Anderson's "Asteroid City," one of the most anticipated summer 2023 movies.

Meticulous madman Wes Anderson hits peak weird with a play within a film, written by a character played by Edward Norton and narrated by a character played by Bryan Cranston, set in an asteroid-struck desert town in 1955. It’s about time, grief, love, the meaning of life, the magic of the universe, gawking at atomic bombs and giving a rock back to E.T. The picture is packed with so many ideas and cast members old and new — Tom Hanks joins such Anderson regulars as Jason Schwartzman, Scarlett Johansson, Jeffrey Wright and Steve Carell — it’s difficult to keep track of where they are, what they’re doing, and what’s supposed to be real and what’s not. I dig it, as will devoted Anderson fans, but it’s a far-out trip for newcomers.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (June 30)

Harrison Ford stars as the adventuresome title archaeologist for the fifth and final time in "Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny," a big summer 2023 movie.

Not a classic Indiana Jones movie but not a disaster, either, and let’s face it — are you going to bail on the guy now? Set mostly in 1969 (with a 1944 prologue) Harrison Ford's fifth and final Indy romp settles for franchise tropes — MacGuffin, Nazis, tombs, whip cracks and sidekicks — as it labours through a global quest for a compact time machine. The device was constructed by ancient Greek math whiz Archimedes, who of course also broke it in two and designed elaborate hiding places. The film gets by on goodwill, some crackerjack special effects, director James Mangold’s relentless propulsion and Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s comic turn as Indy’s scheming goddaughter and tomb-raiding rival. Fare thee well, Indy!

Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One (July 12)

Cruise in "Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One," sure to be one of the biggest summer 2023 movies.

Never bet against a Tom Cruise movie. Last year’s “Top Gun: Maverick” is credited with almost single-handedly reviving a pandemic-struck film exhibition industry. Cruise also recently topped a poll of moviegoers who were asked to name the stars most likely to draw them to a cinema. The seventh chapter in his durable “Mission: Impossible” franchise looks to be another home run for the time-defying action hero, as Cruise’s Ethan Hunt and his IMF allies — including characters played by Rebecca Ferguson, Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg — are once again obliged to save the world from a diabolical menace. This time the job may take a bit longer, as per the “Part One” in the awkward title. So expect an annoying cliffhanger ending, but did I mention the film stars Tom Cruise?

Barbie (July 21)

Emma Mackey, Simu Liu. Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling star in "Barbie."

Cheap laughs or heavy thoughts? An early teaser for Greta Gerwig’s live-action Barbie doll movie made it seem more like an “Archie” comic book film, with Margot Robbie as Betty, Ryan Gosling as Archie, Emma Mackey as Veronica and Simu Liu as Reggie. Another teaser confusingly indicated there are multiple Barbies and Kens. But as fuller plot details have emerged — Barbie No. 1 must leave her Barbie Land fantasy world to solve problems in the real world — so has hope that Gerwig and her co-writer/partner Noah Bambauch have crafted something that is more than just high-concept product hustling. The film’s full trailer has Barbie stopping a dance number in her dollhouse abode to ask fellow revellers, “You guys ever think about dying?” I am curious pink.

Oppenheimer (July 21)

Cillian Murphy in Oppenheimer (2023) by Christopher Nolan.

With “Dunkirk” director Christopher Nolan at the helm, this dramatization of atomic bomb “father” J. Robert Oppenheimer and his Manhattan Project team seems guaranteed to be worth every square inch of the IMAX screens the movie demands. Cue the “explosive” headlines, and ready the awards campaign for title star Cillian Murphy, whose thousand-yard stare in the trailers suggest he’s captured Oppenheimer’s guilty ambivalence as the man who helped end the Second World War but who also created the tool for a feared Third World War. Murphy’s co-stars are a roll call of Hollywood A-listers: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Florence Pugh, Robert Downey Jr., Gary Oldman, Rami Malek and more. Will this be the thinking person’s blockbuster?

Talk to Me (July 28)

Joe Bird stars in the horror film "Talk to Me."

Teens find a spooky embalmed hand that lets them physically commune with the dead — but only for a short while, or else demonic possession takes hold. What could possibly go wrong? Just about everything, as the motherless and grieving Mia (Sophie Wild), her kid brother and her rowdy friends are about to discover. This low-budget horror by Danny and Michael Philippou was snapped up by boutique label A24 at Sundance, a testament to the creativity and audience savvy of the twin bros, YouTube stars (RackaRacka comedy channel) making their feature debut. The story has shaky logic but a rock-solid sense of instilling dread with a minimum of special effects and a sound design that turns the chill up to 11.

Strays (Aug. 18)

The doggie revenge comedy "Strays."

No other trailer has made me laugh as hard this year as the one for Josh Greenbaum’s shaggy dog comedy, the tale of how man’s best friend plots revenge against his callous owner. Loveable but gullible Reggie, a border terrier voiced by Will Ferrell, can’t believe what’s happening to him after his scuzzball minder, Doug (Will Forte), abandons him far from home. Reggie soon gets the picture — and hatches a hilarious payback scheme — after meeting a streetwise Boston terrier named Bug, voiced by Jamie Foxx. With a voice cast that also includes Sofía Vergara, Isla Fisher, Josh Gad and Randall Park (“Fresh Off the Boat”), this promises to be a dumb-but-fun diversion to liven up the August movie doldrums.

Other noteworthy movies to add to your summer movie list

“20 Days in Mariupol” (July 21)

“Afire” (July 14)

“The Blackening” (June 16)

“Blue Beetle” (Aug. 18)

“Elemental” (June 16)

“Gran Turismo” (Aug. 11)

“The Meg 2: The Trench” (Aug. 4)

“Something You Said Last Night” (July 7)

“Squaring the Circle (The Story of Hipgnosis)” (June 9)

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem” (Aug. 2)

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'Transformers' movie review: 'Rise of the Beasts' rolls out with renewed franchise vigor

reviews movie 355

The genius who cast Pete Davidson as a talking robot that turns into a Porsche deserves an honorary Oscar. Perhaps an MTV Movie Award or something.

There’s actually a bunch of inspired choices in “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” (★★★ out of four; rated PG-13; in theaters Friday), the latest installment of the popular sci-fi action franchise with metal aliens punching and blasting other metal aliens. The series has thankfully, found its way out of the doldrums of the Michael Bay era and discovered a satisfying groove of nostalgic bliss. It’s still a whole lot of earnest diatribes, hokey zingers and assorted nonsense but it’s at least crowd-pleasing, candy-in-your-popcorn nonsense.

The previous outing, 2018’s coming-of-age charmer “ Bumblebee ,” revisited the 1980s – the decade that spawned the Transformers toy and cartoon craze – and “Beasts” catches up with Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) and the Autobot heroes in 1994. An artifact called the Trans Warp Key is sought after by a world-eating being called Unicron (Colman Domingo), so he can travel through time and space for a planetary smorgasbord that would rival a high-end Las Vegas buffet.

Naturally, this key is on Earth, Unicron’s henchman Scourge (Peter Dinklage) and the Terrorcons are after it, and the Autobots – stuck on our world and trying to get back to their home of Cybertron – team with a group of animal-themed transforming robots called Maximals, who ended up here after Unicron drove them off their planet. (The Maximals were introduced into "Transformers" lore with the '90s animated "Beast Wars" series.)

The plot hinges on human characters, too, and they’re a step up from the Bayhem days of Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox and Mark Wahlberg. Noah (Anthony Ramos), an ex-Army tech expert who cares for his sick little brother, and Elena (Dominique Fishback), a fledgling anthropologist who knows her ancient history but isn't getting to use it in her museum day job, are proud Brooklynites recruited into the effort to foil Unicron’s meal plans.

'Transformers: Rise of the Beasts': New movie villains Terrorcons to wreak havoc on Brooklyn

Directed by Steven Caple Jr. (“Creed II”), “Beasts” boasts a diverse cast, spiffy visual effects and big robot-battling-robot action scenes that are much more coherent than the cacophonous Bay days. The writing is sharper and smarter as well, including a knowing Marky Mark jab, and while there are still lines like “Cross my spark and hope to die,” at least the characters know it’s corny and go with it. 

More importantly, attention is paid to where the main players have been and where they're going. For example, this isn't the human-loving Optimus Prime of the 2000s "Transformers" films yet; since "Beasts" is sort of a prequel, the Autobot leader and Noah are distrustful of each other and verbally spar before finding common ground.

'Transformers': Every franchise movie, definitively ranked

Another integral aspect: The characters are mostly likable. Noah and Elena give the narrative heart and purpose, plus Noah’s fist-bumping buddy dynamic with new Autobot rebel Mirage is the main reason the film works. There's an all-star squad voicing the various Transformers, including nerd legend Cullen (who’s voiced Prime for four decades), Ron Perlman as Maximals’ gorilla leader Optimus Primal, Oscar winner Michelle Yeoh as wise Maximal falcon Airazor and Cristo Fernández (aka Dani Rojas on “Ted Lasso”) as Autobot mechanic Wheeljack.

Kids of the now will adore Davidson’s comic timing and humor as Mirage, the transforming robot role he was born to play. Kids of the ‘80s will appreciate the inclusion of Unicron – a character from the 1986 “Transformers” animated movie that was one of the late Orson Welles’ last film roles – as well as a major final-act surprise.

This is no “Beasts” of burden for anyone. It’s a rather enjoyable step in the right direction for a formerly flailing fan-favorite franchise.

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White men can't jump (2023), common sense media reviewers.

reviews movie 355

Remake has lots of language, stereotypes, and drug use.

White Men Can’t Jump: Movie poster of remake.

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

It's important to take care of your mental and phy

Kamal is a loving father, son, and husband with an

There's a lot of mutual stereotyping that happens

There's mention of and reference to crimes, lots o

Adults flirt, kiss, and have implied sex ("wanna d

Nonstop language, including variations on "f--k,"

Basketball teams, players, NBA, ESPN, Jordans, Nik

Characters talk about buying, dealing, and smoking

Parents need to know that White Men Can't Jump , a remake of the 1992 film, marks the feature debut of singer Jack Harlow across a mostly Black cast. The film has nonstop language, including racial and sexual taunts, and drug use. Some of the racial stereotypes could make some viewers uncomfortable and/or open…

Positive Messages

It's important to take care of your mental and physical health equally. Kids need their parents; adults thrive when they can rely on their partners. Race doesn't define a person entirely, and despite historical injustices and remaining bitterness, Black and White people can get along. Dreams can come true.

Positive Role Models

Kamal is a loving father, son, and husband with anger issues. His dad has been a wonderful father, but he regrets not teaching his son how to manage his temper. Jeremy refuses to grow up, still hoping for a basketball career despite debilitating knee injuries and a painkiller addiction. His girlfriend just about gives up on him, forcing him to realize how much he needs her. Kamal's wife is very supportive of her husband, despite feeling disappointed in him at times. Kamal's dad has been a loving and attentive father, especially after Kamal's mother walked out on them.

Diverse Representations

There's a lot of mutual stereotyping that happens between the White character and the majority Black cast. These are mostly meant to be funny, and nobody is exempt from the teasing. The White character is depicted as a little kooky: a detox-obsessed vegan who carries an NPR tote bag. He's dating a Black woman. Another Black man teases his friend for dating White women. The Black character portrayals are more diverse because there are more characters. All characters are depicted as struggling to make ends meet, and some do this through illegal means.

Inclusion information : Black actors, Black writers

Did we miss something on diversity? Suggest an update.

Violence & Scariness

There's mention of and reference to crimes, lots of verbal taunts (including racial and sexual) and physical threats, some fistfights break out, and a man wields a flamethrower in a public place. Kamal's dad has MS and is hospitalized. A beloved character dies.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.

Sex, Romance & Nudity

Adults flirt, kiss, and have implied sex ("wanna do some freaky s--t?"). There are references to being turned on, porn, pimping, "d--ks," dry humping, a stripper pole, "getting none tonight," and a man's bare bottom is seen in a locker room. There's mention of OnlyFans.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.

Nonstop language, including variations on "f--k," "s--t," "ass," and "goddamn." Also: "hell," the "N" word, "d--k," "p---y," "bitch," "dildos," "dope," "dumb," "loser," "stupid," "Jesus Christ."

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.

Products & Purchases

Basketball teams, players, NBA, ESPN, Jordans, Nike, NPR, Gonzaga, Tesla, Instagram, Venmo, Zelle, Cash App, Google, TikTok, Nordstrom, OnlyFans, Ed Sheeran.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters talk about buying, dealing, and smoking weed, as well as eating cannabis products and edibles. A drug dealer at a gym offers a wide variety of pills. A main character is addicted to painkillers. Adults drink liquor. People are seen smoking.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that White Men Can't Jump , a remake of the 1992 film , marks the feature debut of singer Jack Harlow across a mostly Black cast. The film has nonstop language, including racial and sexual taunts, and drug use. Some of the racial stereotypes could make some viewers uncomfortable and/or open conversations about their historical origins. Basketball players constantly mock each other. They also lose their tempers easily, making threats, and breaking into fistfights. A man wields a flamethrower, and a beloved character is hospitalized and dies. Characters talk about buying, dealing, and smoking weed, as well as eating cannabis products and edibles. These references are played for laughs. A drug dealer at a gym offers a wide variety of pills. A main character is addicted to painkillers. Adults drink liquor, and people are seen smoking. Most of the main characters are struggling to make ends meet. Adults flirt, kiss, and have implied sex. There are references to being turned on, porn, pimping, "d--ks," dry humping, a stripper pole, "getting none tonight," and a man's bare bottom is seen in a locker room. Language includes frequent use of "f--k," "s--t," "ass," "goddamn," "hell," the "N" word, "d--k," "p---y," "bitch," "dildos," and more.

To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails .

Where to Watch

Videos and photos.

a white man and a black man stand side by side on a basketball court

Community Reviews

There aren't any parent reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

What's the Story?

In WHITE MEN CAN'T JUMP, Kamal Allen ( Sinqua Walls ) is a former high school basketball star now struggling to make ends meet to support his wife, Imani ( Teyana Taylor ), and son. Jeremy (Jack Harlow) is a former college basketball star whose knee surgeries have left him unable to play and addicted to painkillers. He spends his days trying to earn a few bucks coaching younger players and selling "detox" smoothies, but his professional girlfriend Tatiana ( Laura Harrier ) is losing her patience with him. When Kamal hears about an opportunity to earn a lot of money in a basketball tournament, he enlists Jeremy to play two-on-two with him. The pair pull together the tournament entry fee by hustling games on neighborhood courts around Los Angeles. Playing together forces them both to reconcile with their own pasts and face what's keeping them both unable to move forward in their lives.

Is It Any Good?

Uneven in its humor but driven by two solid central performances, this remake is sure to earn relentless comparisons with the original . White Men Can't Jump is also streaming in some territories on Disney+, which could mislead viewers into thinking the film has been toned down. In fact, this Jump has a definitive Black outlook -- White guy Jeremy, played by Harlow, is the odd man out, and the writing and directing team behind this version (unlike the original) is Black. The remake seems to be trying hard to be edgy, with music video director Calmatic at the helm, and it's sometimes successful. There's lots of verbal ribbing, as in the original, including some homophobic heckling and plenty of mutually racial taunts.

Much of the verbal jousting feels heavily scripted. Likewise, the banter between Harlow and Walls (and the back-up comedic pair of Myles Bullock and Vince Staples) doesn't always hit its mark, but there are occasional laugh-out-loud lines. Jump's appeal relies heavily on enjoying the two main characters and believing the deeper connection between Jeremy and Kamal. Walls is a charismatic leading man, and Harlow makes an impressive feature film debut here, though he definitely seems more comfortable with comedy than drama. The film also has tender moments of father-son love, male bonding, and men realizing they need the support of their women.

Talk to Your Kids About ...

White Men Can't Jump is a remake of an earlier film. If you've seen the original, how do the two compare? Do you think people can enjoy this film without knowing about or watching the original? Can they possibly enjoy it more?

One of the film's stars and its director come from the world of music. What added value do you think people known for other forms of art can bring to a movie?

One of the main themes of this film, and the basis for much of its humor, is racial stereotyping. Do any of the stereotypes hit home for you? Do any offend you? Why do stereotypes exist?

Movie Details

Did we miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

Suggest an Update

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Bloody Daddy movie review: This Shahid Kapoor-starrer serves everything half-baked

Bloody daddy movie review: from sketchy characters with no back stories to a wafer-thin plot, the film seems to have faltered in many places..

While well-made crime shows and films based on drug mafias have been keeping us hooked to the big screen and on streaming platforms, we are served a half-baked and bland Bloody Daddy. Right from sketchy characters with absolutely no back stories, a wafer-thin plot to a screenplay that unfolds like scattered pieces of a puzzle and a climax that takes no NASA brains to decode, this Ali Abbas Zafar directed film makes you wonder if he rushed to make it, write it, edit it and release it, basically faltering in every aspect of filmmaking. Also read: Shahid Kapoor jokes how he picks films like Bloody Daddy to take out frustration on set: ‘Been married for eight years’

Shahid Kapoor in a still from Bloody Daddy.

An adaptation of French film Sleepless Night (2011), the film has average dialogues and mediocre action scenes clubbed with uncooked characters that needed way more depth and detailing to leave a lasting impact. If anything works, it’s Shahid Kapoor’s heroic screen presence, but unfortunately, he also disappoints in the acting department this time. Maybe it’s got to do with his recent choices of playing angry men. I mean, we have seen him being needlessly broody, alcoholic, picking fights, and being eccentric a bit too much now. We have had enough of that crazy streak in Kabir Singh, and saw some glimpses of it Jersey and Farzi, too. So seeing Shahid do that same stuff, all over again in Bloody Daddy, wasn't really inviting.

Bloody Daddy chronicles the story of one night when NCB officer Sumair Azad ( Shahid Kapoor ) goes to meet drug lord Sikander Choudhary (Ronit Bose Roy) in his club to return a bag of cocaine in exchange for his kidnapped teenage son. But things don’t go as per plan and what ensues is a 'bloody' fight. It all starts when one morning, Sumair nabs drug dealers along with his colleague Jaggi (Zeishan Quadri), and seizes cocaine worth ₹ 50 crore. While Sumair somehow manages to retrieve the bag from NCB office to be able to keep his son safe, he’s oblivious to the fact that he’s being shortchanged at multiple levels within NCB. He ends up in fights with his colleagues Aditi Rawat (Diana Penty) and senior Sameer Singh (Rajeev Khandelwal). At one point, everyone is a suspect, and ahead of the climax, things become clear and it’s a cakewalk to figure how the end will eventually pan out.

With a runtime of two hours, it’s fast paced and well-edited but never rises beyond being a cat and mouse chase and fight. The action thriller that Zafar has co-written with Aditya Basu and Siddharth–Garima kicks off on a high note and in no time, nosedives into being a bland unfolding of events that doesn’t offer any adrenaline rush.

Given that the film was shot in 36 days during the Covid-19 pandemic, it opens with quite a few warnings regarding the initial lockdown, the second wave claiming lives, people rendered jobless, the increase in crime rate ahead of the third wave and everyone used to the new normal. And I expected Zafar to build the premise on these lines, however, I see nothing of this translate into the actual script, other than a few superficial scenes where we see people masked up, guests at a high-profile wedding being tested and criminals talking about how the pandemic has doomed their hotel and drug business, so they need to resurrect it.

Ronit Roy in a still from Bloody Daddy.

Performance of supporting cast

For once I thought if not the screenplay, the casting would do some wonders, alas, it’s rather disappointing how every single actor has been made to look like a sidekick with nobody getting to showcase their acting chops to the best of their ability. Ronit Roy, a delight to watch on screen, doesn’t have a clear direction between being a good cop or a bad cop. Rajeev Khandelwal struggles in action sequences and never looks convincing enough. Sanjay Kapoor comes as a stylised villain only to vanish in thin air once his part is done. Ankur Bhatia and Vivaan Bhatena as bad guys, do a decent job but have too little to do. Lost in this male-dominated cast, we get Diana Penty trying to hold her ground and she isn’t that bad, actually. She doesn’t go overboard and maintains a calming balance. In fact, the young boy who plays Shahid’s onscreen son, Atharva, is quite good and refreshing.

The biggest joke of Bloody Daddy is in the title itself. After each action sequence, we see Shahid and Rajeev’s characters covered in blood stains, and the next moment, it’s all gone. They just start afresh from where they left the fight but, no blood on their faces or clothes. It’s actually difficult to digest such bad continuity breaks.

Overall, Bloody Daddy might keep you hooked only for the sheer thrill of watching Shahid do some action and stunts on screen, but it falls prey to its own cliches and tropes. The film is now streaming on Jio Cinemas.

Bloody Daddy Cast: Shahid Kapoor, Ronit Roy, Rajeev Khandelwal, Diana Penty, Vivan Bhatena, Sanjay Kapoor, Ankur Bhatia Director: Ali Abbas Zafar

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  15. The 355

    Positive Elements The women of the 355 (a name I'll revisit in the Conclusion) feel alone for much of the film. They've all faced betrayal and loss. However, by working together, they gradually discover camaraderie and kinship.

  16. 'The 355' Review: Jessica Chastain in a Vigorous Formula Spy Flick

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  17. Movie Review: Jessica Chastain's 'The 355'

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  18. The 355 Reviews

    Rating: PG-13 Runtime: 122 min See All Details and Credits Watch Now Stream On Stream On Stream On Metascore 40 Positive: 6 Mixed: 27 Negative: 7 Critic Reviews 75 Alan Ng

  19. 'The 355' Streaming Movie Review: Stream It or Skip It?

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  20. The 355 Review: Trite Spy Movie Is Shallow & Entirely Missable

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