Secret Team 355, the review: sluggish female spy adventure

The review of Secret Team 355, Simon Kinberg’s second work based on intrigue and double play, with Jessica Chastain at the center of the team.

Secret Team 355: Penélope Cruz, Edgar Ramírez in a scene from the film

With the Secret Team 355 review we are dealing with a new aspiring franchise within a production and distribution system that gives priority to titles that can be exploited with various derivations. Perhaps this is also why the director is Simon Kinberg, one that of the franchise, for better or for worse, of course: for years he was involved in the production of the Marvel adaptations of 20th Century Fox, working mainly on the stories of the X-Men ( of which he was practically the artistic supervisor from 2014 to 2020), and he also worked on the film Sherlock Holmes of Warner Bros. and, as a creative consultant, apart from the recent course of Star Wars. Not that this path has contributed particularly positively to his second work, which at the moment has grossed less than 30 million dollars worldwide (about half of its budget), closing every conversation about an imminent return to the scene of the fierce protagonists.

Better alone or badly accompanied?

Secret Team 355 9

Secret Team 355: Jessica Chastain, Diane Kruger, Lupita Nyong’o

Secret Team 355 (original only The 355, a name that pays homage to a famous female spy active during the American Revolution) starts from the story of Mason “Mace” Browne (Jessica Chastain), a CIA agent in charge of recovering an object that in the wrong hands could cause irreparable global damage. The mission does not go as planned, and Mace finds himself at the center of a plot that points to her as being responsible for a double-dealing operation. On the run from colleagues and superiors, she must understand how to solve the problem, and her path is intertwined with that of three other women, all linked to international agencies: the Colombian Graciela Rivera (Penelope Cruz), the German Marie Schmidt (Diane Kruger) and the Englishman Khadijah Adiyeme (Lupita Nyong’o). Together they work to prevent a worldwide cataclysm and uncover corruption within their respective workplaces, where women are used as scapegoats to cover up the crimes of the old guard.

Jessica Chastain, “I like being a provocateur. Tammy Faye? The image of true love”

The second is not particularly good

Secret Team 355 2

Secret Team 355: Jessica Chastain in a photo from the film

The genesis of the project dates back to the making of X-Men: Dark Phoenix, of which Simon Kinberg was the director (newcomer) and Jessica Chastain the antagonist. Pushed by all the discussions about the possibility of a female reinvention of figures like James Bond, she proposed to him to create a new spy story with women at the center, bringing to the big screen a concept that had worked well in television with Alias, for example. Said, done, and here the two found themselves collaborating, even behind the camera (the actress also produced the film). An idea in itself noble, which allows the genre (understood in the cinematographic sense) to reinvent itself and try to introduce something new in a market now dominated by the already seen and immediately recognizable (so far almost all the releases of the majors for the 2022 are sequels, remakes or reboots, and those who do not fall into this category struggle at the box office). But good intentions are not enough, especially when a swinging figure like Kinberg manages everything creatively.

Secret Team 355 13

Secret Team 355: Penélope Cruz, Diane Kruger, Jessica Chastain, Lupita Nyong’o in a scene from the film

If in the case of the X-Men one could speak of studio interference and, for his directorial debut, a certain inexperience that did not make him the ideal candidate for an aspiring blockbuster full of special effects, here it is instead evident how the filmmaker is still on the high seas in purely technical terms. Net of a writing steeped in clichés and telephone twists, Kinberg highlights his formal weaknesses by approving a final product where angles and editing reduce the action scenes to confused fragments and the psychological deepening to rapid exchanges of jokes that they are completely free of bite. The performances of the actresses also emerge fragmented, penalized by roles that do not properly highlight their acting specificities within a choral idea where everything is flat and anonymous (not that the male colleagues do better: even the charisma by Sebastian Stan is beaten by Kinberg’s choices). Even the promise of an elusive sequel is listless, as if it were more of an obligation than a true flicker of inspiration. Will they too be happy to know that it is unlikely that they will return to interpreting these characters?

Conclusions

We close the review of Secret Team 355, underlining how it is a tired and predictable spy story, penalized by the directorial inexperience of producer and screenwriter Simon Kinberg.

Because we like it

  • Jessica Chastain gives it all.
  • The basic idea has potential.

What’s wrong

  • Screenplay and direction proceed in spurts, generating a story without depth.
  • The cast is not properly valued.
  • The action scenes are pretty flat.

Leave a Comment