At the beginning of the film, Mason “Mace” Brown, a hot-headed CIA agent, and his partner Nick (Sebastian Stan), pose as newlyweds to meet in Paris the Colombian intelligence agent who owns the device (an underused Edgar Ramirez). (Chastain and Stan, who previously worked together on “The Martian,” are said to be best friends who are secretly in love with each other, but they have no chemistry.) Kruger, as a bad agent German Marie, intercepts him instead, leading to one of the film’s many dizzying action sequences. Mace summons his reluctant former friend from MI6, the brilliant hacker Khadijah (Nyong’o), to trace his location. But Cruz, as Colombian psychologist Dr. Graciela Rivera, is also drawn into the fray; implausibly, she was sent to the field to find Ramirez’s character and bring him home.
Eventually, it becomes clear that all of these women must put aside their differences and team up to find the device: “They understand this, they start World War III,” Mace tells Khadijah in one of the many examples of awkward exposure of the film. But first, a fight between Mace and Marie involving frozen seafood, which isn’t as fun as it sounds. And the moment they are all standing, screaming insane dialogue and pointing guns at each other before they reach a difficult trigger, couldn’t be staged or shot more awkwardly.
One of the film’s most glaring sins is how it wastes Cruz’s formidable presence and ability. She plays the scared fish out of the water, eager to get home with her husband and sons. As if the inclusion of her character wasn’t artificial enough, she was then asked to be curled up and gentle, which aren’t exactly her strengths.
And yet, there are a few scenes that indicate just how much better “The 355” could have been. At one point, after securing a victory, they’re all sitting around drinking beer and exchanging war stories, and the blossoming camaraderie displayed makes you wish there was more. The idea that they reject their male dominated agencies, that they are alone and that they have to rely on each other to survive is also intriguing, like a more violent version of “9 to 5”.