Warning: deep SPOILERS for The 355 are in play. If you want to remain unspoiled, head to the nearest safe house of twist-free coverage on CinemaBlend.
The world was recently introduced to the world of female-driven espionage depicted in the Jessica Chastain-led ensemble The 355. A new team of agents looking to form their own potential franchise, Ms. Chastain is joined by the likes of Diane Kruger, Lupita Nyong’o, Penélope Cruz, and Fan Bingbing in a mission to save the world from technological danger. The only problem is, if you’re an aficionado of spy movies like I am, you’re going to notice that this movie is basically a remake of the first Mission: Impossible movie, and that’s not a compliment.
While a lot of espionage thrillers seem to borrow from Brian De Palma and Tom Cruise’s 1996 blockbuster (and yes, James Bond is guilty of that charge as well), no other movie has seemed like a wholesale retelling of that story. That is, until The 355 took several key beats and wove them together in a movie that fails to capture the magic of Paramount’s still-going franchise. Follow along as I rattle off five plot points that make this movie an unofficial Mission: Impossible remake.
The Drive/Disk Is In The Open!
Right out of the gate, The 355 set up its major conflict as something extremely similar to Mission: Impossible’s NOC List, and you could even see it in the trailers. While Ethan Hunt was accused of trying to sell the list of deep cover operatives and their identities, Simon Kinberg’s caper goes a little wider with its threat. But we’re still dealing with a drive out in the open after a covert op tries to bust shadowy buyer Elijah Clarke (Jason Flemyng).
Were we merely dealing with a computer drive that has a lot of information/digital skeleton keys going out into the open, that wouldn’t be a sin. Again, Skyfall opens with a similar device that hews even closer to the NOC List. Diving deeper into the structure of this story, the laundry list of borrowed influences starts to add up, especially with one twist that happens to be revealed in the middle of the film.
A “Dead” Team Member/Superior Comes Back As A Baddie
What’s an agent to do when they lose their teammates and/or their superior in the middle of a mission? Well, if you’re The 355’s Mason Browne (Jessica Chastain), you’re eventually framed for murdering your teammate and your superior! The trouble is, in the case of fellow CIA agent Nick Fowler (Sebastian Stan), he’s not dead; he’s just playing for the other team. On top of that, Mason’s actually-dead boss Larry Marks (John Douglas Thompson) is actually a turncoat too.
If you were to take Mission: Impossible’s gigantic twist where Jim Phelps (Jon Voight) is revealed to be very much alive, and an IMF traitor, that only covers half of what’s been repurposed here. In fact, this story looks like it doubles down on the mole angle harder than the first few seasons of 24, which is absolutely saying something. Don’t worry, much like Mr. Phelps, Mr. Fowler gets his; but only after being promoted in the CIA.
Personal Ties Are Used As The Ultimate Liability
During the successful framing of Ethan Hunt in Mission: Impossible, former IMF director/returning character Eugene Kittridge (Henry Czerny) finds a pressure point and squeezes. That weakness happens to be Ethan’s mother, Margaret, and his uncle Donald; who are soon plagued by manufactured charges that make their lives a living hell. Hanging this threat over Agent Hunt’s head is a minor, but pivotal point in the story of the first Mission film, and you’re going to remember it fondly when you see The 355.
DNI agent Graciela Rivera (Penélope Cruz) reminds us that family is the ultimate liability, as the movie hammers home the fact that whether she continues playing her part in this mission or not, her family is at risk either way. A similar note his struck with Lupita Nyong’o’s Khadijah Adiyeme leaving a boyfriend at home that you’re constantly expecting to be black bagged and held for ransom. But if we’re truly being honest, it’s Graciela’s constant family crisis that brings up the memory of the Hunt family farm almost going into receivership. Though by time Nick Fowler makes his big move, every one of those parties, and more, are in fact abducted to be used as leverage.
The Old “Camera In The Glasses” Trick
Here it is, folks: the coup de grace when it comes to The 355’s thefts from the Mission: Impossible playbook. As if parceling out Ethan Hunt’s burdens throughout several members of the team wasn’t enough, they even take his trademark eyewear. MSS agent Lin Mi Sheng (Fan Bingbing) is almost always seen sporting a very stylish pair of glasses, and surprise surprise, they have a camera implanted in them! Which is perfect, because Agent Sheng uses them to show the rest of her team where Nick Fowler’s evil secret lair is.
The Mission: Impossible version of this trick saw Ethan and his IMF team coordinating their mission, with Jim Phelps even fabricating his own death through some clever camera tricks. He’s ultimately incriminated because Ethan keeps his pair handy and gives Eugene Kittridge the watch that receives the image, broadcasting his evil team leader’s supposed resurrection. It’s not clearly stated, but by time The 355’s Nick is drugged and ready to be apprehended, it can be presumed that evidence was gathered from the stream from those glasses.
It wouldn’t surprise me at all that there are a couple more Mission: Impossible plot points used throughout the rest of The 355. Borrowing from one of the best spy franchises certainly isn’t a crime provided you do something interesting with it. In the case of co-writer/director Simon Kinberg’s film, the sum fails to justify the integration of the parts, leaving a fan like myself very upset. Judge for yourself though, as if you’ve read through this rundown and still haven’t seen the movie for yourself, The 355 is currently in theaters and waiting for you to debrief.