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.
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.”
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.
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.”)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 indulging in her “nerdom,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything she loves, such as Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.