An overwhelming majority of the thrills in The 355 are courtesy of the five world-class, international actresses that headline the film: Jessica Chastain, Penélope Cruz, Bingbing Fan, Diane Kruger and Lupita Nyong’o. Although each plays a different kind of badass in The 355—elite intelligent agents, computer specialists, psychologists, and more—they all demonstrate, exceedingly, that they really know how to fight.
While these women might mostly be known for their dramatic performances or comedy chops, if we look back at their individual filmographies, we can see how certain movies might have helped to properly prepare them to come together as a dream team in the new globe-trotting spy action thriller. Whether you watch these action flicks before or after watching The 355, we’re sure this list of career highlights from all five ladies will keep your adrenaline pumping.
The 355 is now playing exclusively in theaters nationwide.
Nyong’o’s fighting finesse in Black Panther’s many action scenes did not come without some serious effort. For her part as Wakandan warrior Nakia, the Oscar-winning actress trained in judo, jujutsu, silat and Filipino martial arts. With those skills on her resume, Nyong’o was likely a no-brainer pick for her role in The 355 as Khadijah, a former MI6 ally and cutting-edge computer specialist—especially if she picked up anything from Wakandan tech wiz Shuri as well. We’ll soon see if additional training for The 355 impacts Nakia’s repertoire, as Nyong’o is set to reprise the role in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever when it releases later this year in November.
While it might not seem so based on the character description alone (a sunny and cheerful kindergarten teacher), Nyong’o’s performance in Little Monsters is definitely one of her most ferocious. On a field trip gone very wrong, she keeps the children safe and distracted amidst the sudden outbreak of a zombie apocalypse, with soothing stories and ukulele renditions of “If You’re Happy and You Know It”—that is, when she’s not ruining her bright yellow sundress in brutal, bloody brawls with the walking dead.
As one of the strongest warriors in the Ice Queen’s extremely unethical army (made up of abducted children who have been trained for decades as ruthless huntsmen), Sara (Chastain) is no stranger to combat. After she defects from the army for a life of freedom, she finds herself stuck between the wrath of two sorceresses: the Ice Queen and her equally chilling sister, Ravenna. That’s when all that training comes into use, including, and perhaps most impressively, her expert marksmanship with a bow and arrow. Her insanely accurate aim becomes a key part of the plot.
With Ava, Chastain added even more action experience, this time as the titular character, a relentless soldier-turned-assassin. She’s a hitwoman with a conscience, and when she starts asking a lot of questions about her hits, she begins to make an enemy of her boss (Colin Farrell), who doubts her ability to carry out missions with the blind loyalty that is required. Ava is not so unlike Mason ‘Mace’ Brown, the wild card CIA agent she plays in The 355.
For the fourth installment in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise (to date, still the most expensive movie ever made), Oscar-nominated director Rob Marshall needed a “funny and smart and crafty and beautiful” actress to play Angelica, a pirate who matches the sass of Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow, which is really saying something. Cruz is undoubtedly the actress that fits that description, and she started rigorous fitness and fencing training months before the production started—and continued, safely, even after discovering during filming that she was pregnant.
In Sahara, Cruz plays Dr. Eva Ross from the World Health Organization, who’s on the ground in West Africa investigating a perplexing new disease as it spreads across the region. Beyond the inherent medical risk, there was no mention of other dangers in the job description. But she soon finds herself swept up by escapades she didn’t ask for, including Matthew McConaughey’s search for a long-lost warship and a dictator-businessman who wants to stop Eva from discovering the true source of the disease. As it turns out, this doctor has the endurance, brilliance, and staggering coordination it takes to survive. And it makes a great warm-up for Cruz’s performance in The 355, in which she again plays a medical professional who gets whisked into a much more dangerous world than she had ever expected.
Bingbing Fan’s villainess in League of Gods is about as chilling and heartless as they come. In the action-fantasy epic, she plays Daji, a divine and devilish interpretation of the real-life wife of an ancient Chinese ruler. We’re most impressed by the dexterity and speed with which Daji lashes her deadly tails at her enemies, but also her ability to cast spells, including one that curses someone with a Benjamin Button-like syndrome.
Also set in ancient China is A Battle of Wits, an action-packed war drama in which Fan plays the fierce cavalry commander Yiyue. Although the film eventually treats her as a damsel in distress, we find ourselves still inspired by the fact that, for the majority of the movie, she holds her own in a mostly male-dominated army.
As an executive at the National Archives, Dr. Abigail Chase (Kruger) and treasure hunter Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage) initially butt heads… understandably so, since it’s her job to protect documents like the Declaration of Independence, and since he most certainly intends to steal it. But when she realizes there’s a greater enemy than Gates, her preservation gloves come off. She insists on supervising their subsequent adventures across historical American landmarks, and it becomes clear she is more headstrong, in-shape and well-coordinated than your everyday archivist. We have to say, her passion for American history and document preservation is infectious.
Kruger’s character in Unknown also exceeds expectations: Gina is a lot more than your everyday taxi driver. First off, she’s able to save Liam Neeson’s character from drowning after the two get into a car accident. And later, when he gets into even deeper waters trying to solve an increasingly violent and baffling case of identity theft, she really rises to the occasion—and wields an impressive array of hand-to-hand combat skills. Gina is also quite the skilled driver, and isn’t afraid to use her taxi cab as a deadly weapon when push comes to shove.