The 355: Tomorrow Never Ends, by David Bax
Generally, unless it’s from a director with whose work I already have a negative association, I try to enter into every movie with hope and optimism. So, in the opening scene of Simon Kinberg’s The 355, when the movie introduces its ridiculous MacGuffin (a computer program that only exists on one chip and has the ability to take control of any other computer system in the world from any distance), I thought to myself, “Okay, cool, so this is like a throwback to 90s Bond movie type stuff.” But it very soon becomes clear, over and over again, that no such thought was put into this picture. It’s just completely unoriginal.
Here we have an action movie about jet-setting spies played by huge stars in which the fate of the world hangs in the balance and, yet, The 355‘s pulse never seems to raise above resting rate. A big part of this is the action itself. Many of the fights, of both the fist and gun variety, feel unchoreographed. More likely, though, they actually are and Kinberg just has no idea how to shoot or edit them. Like a middle school student trying to force an extension on his homework with illegible writing, he photographs these skirmishes in a comically overdone version of the shaky camera technique most associated with Paul Greengrass’ Jason Bourne movies.
Often even more hilarious is the movie’s braindead dialogue. One character reminisces about the old days of the War on Terror, when “we knew who we were fighting,” an observation that flies in the face of all conventional thinking on the War on Terror. Later, the spy squad’s resident hacker, investigating the dastardly computer program, marvels, “These algorithms are beyond anything I’ve ever seen!” By the time one of them says to a captured baddie she’s interrogating, “We can do it the easy way or we can do it the hard way,” I stopped blaming the credited screenwriters and resolved that this movie was actually written by an AI that had only been fed terrible action flicks.
The 355‘s laziness infects not just the dialogue but the storytelling as a whole. Even before the big twist has been set up, the movie has telegraphed that there’s going to be one by making characters seem untrustworthy before they’ve had a chance to turn their coats. And churlish though it may be to point out implausibilities in a film, this one provides nothing else to think about. So it’s hard not to roll your eyes at the way these spies–on the run with no support from their agencies–seem to produce new technology and clothing from mid-air, at one point apparently even teleporting to another country.
All of this would make the movie more forgettable than annoying if it weren’t for the waste of such a great cast (Jessica Chastain, Penelope Cruz, Fan Bingbing, Diane Kruger, Lupita Nyong’o). It’s almost angering to witness them casting their considerable talents about, trying to hook onto something substantive. The 355 gives them nothing.