By Lynn Venhaus
Ah, risk management, the American medical system and a litigious society are focal points into a criminal investigation of mysterious patient deaths in the riveting “The Good Nurse.”

But what separates this true crime drama as more of a ‘howdunit,’ rather than a whodunit, is the way the real-life characters are humanely portrayed. Oscar winners Jessica Chastain (“The Eyes of Tammy Faye”) and Eddie Redmayne (“The Theory of Everything”) are in top form, delivering nuanced, lived-in performances as two empathetic nurses leaning on each other. Their bond is believable and the heart of the story.

In his first English language film, director Tobias Lindholm focused on the friendship between real-life nurses Amy Loughren and Charlie Cullen who worked the demanding night shift at a New Jersey hospital in 2003.

Amy (Chastain) is a single mother struggling with a life-threatening heart condition. New employee Charlie Redmayne) starts sharing the night shift, and because he’s thoughtful and helpful, they develop a tight bond. After a couple of patients die unexpectedly, alarm bells go off.

The shy but attentive Cullen had been bouncing around several hospitals, with whispers and suspicions, but superiors – worried about lawsuits and unwanted law enforcement involvement – seemed to ‘send it on’ down the road (not unlike the Catholic Church dioceses, we learned when the pedophile priest scandals blew wide open).

Until compassionate Amy, doing her job, helped investigators, at great personal risk. Noah Emmerich and Nnamdi Asomugha are convincing as the Newark detectives frustrated by the system’s closed doors and lack of communication. As a risk management superior, Kim Dickens is chilling — an ice-cold corporate manager whose doubt creeps in, subtly readable on her face, but she does not budge.

Noah Emmerich, Nnamdi Asomugha, Jessica Chastain

I was unfamiliar with Cullen’s story, which made Redmayne’s characterization even more terrifying. Dubbed “The Angel of Death” by the media after his arrest, he was a merciless monster hidden in plain sight (And also more complicated than the true-crime ‘boxes’ often used in storytelling.)

Chastain deftly conveyed Amy’s growing concern over her friend being the prime suspect. If you are unaware of the case, it makes you think the hospital bureaucracy is hiding information and the police are targeting individuals unfairly.

Lindholm’s focus is on Amy as an ordinary hero who makes extraordinary decisions because she is a ‘good nurse.’ She’s a single mother struggling with a life-threatening heart condition, trying to do the best she can for her family’s future. Her integrity and intelligence are evident in Chastain’s shrewd performance.

It makes a resolution for the nerve-wracking mystery even more urgent.

Screenwriter Krysty Wilson-Cairns, Oscar-nominated for “1917,” has smartly adapted the 2013 nonfiction book by Charles Graeber, “The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness, and Murder,” which details dozens of deaths over a period of 16 years, at nine hospitals in two states. Cullen confessed to 29, but as the title cards at the end state, the real count could be hundreds.

Lindholm, who directed the Danish films “The Hunt” and “A Hijacking,” effectively builds tension. The music score by Biosphere adds to that growing unease as well.

While I’m not usually a fan of so much natural lighting, it does give the film a realistic you-are-there feel. Cinematographer Jody Lee Lipes, who worked on “Manchester by the Sea,” created a mood through the gray days and playing with the shadows of a mundane workplace overnight, hinting at evil lurking in storage rooms and hospital beds through dim fluorescent lighting.

The film’s hushed tones and how methodically it details the steps to finally catching the killer comes together in satisfying fashion.

With its stellar cast, “The Good Nurse” succeeds as a cautionary tale by highlighting the everyday healthcare heroes doing heartfelt work. But also shows how aberrant behavior can go undetected, and lays bare the cracks in the system.

To the brave souls willing to stick their neck out for the truth, this movie’s for you.

“The Good Nurse” is a 2022 true-crime drama directed by Tobias Lindholm and starring Jessica Chastain, Eddie Redmayne, Noah Emmerich, Nnamdi Asomugha and Kim Dickens. It is rated R for language and the run time is 2 hours, 1 minute. In select theaters Oct. 19 and streaming on Netflix beginning Oct. 26. Lynn’s Grade: B+

By Lynn Venhaus
In the international spy game, girls can take a licking and keep on ticking – that’s the calling card of “The 355,” a wildly uneven full-throttle action thriller.

Four women from different countries with spy agency experience join forces to save the world from cyber-catastrophe, the kind that would cause World War III. The action rockets from Columbia to Virginia to Paris to London to Shanghai on this deadly mission, as a mysterious woman tracks their moves.

The concept here is that women can be lethal weapons and front action movies, just like Tom Cruise and Jason Statham. Their task is to outsmart mercenaries up to no good. Cue the propulsive music score by Tom Kolkenborg, aka “Junkie XL,” as we watch chases, shootouts, stick-fighting, and explosions just like a “John Wick” or “Jack Reacher.”

A quartet of top-shelf actresses unite for this rogue mission: two-time Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain, in full “Zero Dark Thirty” mode, as fiery CIA agent Mason “Mace” Browne; two Oscar winners, Lupita Nyong’o as crackerjack cyber-sleuth Khadijah, formerly M16, and Penelope Cruz as compassionate Graciela, a psychologist who works with DNI agents in Colombia; and Diane Kruger as cunning German operative Marie Schmidt of the Bundesnachrichtendienst, or BND, the foreign intelligence service.

They slip into their roles with ease, and genuinely develop a bond working together in a frantic race against the clock. Their action scenes are quite impressive – as is the editing of Oscar-winner John Gilbert.

The bold and brave mavericks show off sharp skills as they try to prevent a top-secret weapon — a computer drive with a master key —  from falling into nefarious hands. They can do everything 007 and other secret agent boys can do while globe-trotting. The movie gets far more interesting when Bingbing Fan, as the mysterious Lin Mi Sheng, is added to their girl power grid. However, Sebastian Stan, as Mace’s CIA partner, is unconvincing.

Like Beyonce sang, girls can run the world – and co-writer-director Simon Kinberg seized upon the idea pitched by Chastain when he directed her in the worst “X-Men” movie sequel ever, “Dark Phoenix.” She wanted to see women get the rock-star action-goddess treatment and is one of the producers here.

“The 355” refers to the codename of an unidentified female spy in the American Revolution. (They tell us this fact far into the film).

Huzzah! Any time girls are shown on equal footing with the guys, it’s a good thing – even if it’s a pedestrian project. Last year’s “Gunpowder Milkshake” comes to mind, and the ruthless aspects of the superior “Widows” in 2018.

The plot is convoluted and often implausible, but the fight scenes are well-choreographed and are entertaining when they have the upper hand and slip out of harm’s way. The movie could have ended at least three different times, so it feels long at 2 hours and 4 minutes.

Comparisons to “Charlie’s Angels” for the 21st century are fair. The women are having such a good time kicking butt and getting names that it’s a shame that the formulaic plot devices slow it down.

Major characters shockingly get killed early, there are betrayals you see coming a mile away, and then of course we have the tough bosses and the clueless co-workers who are making bad assumptions (do these creaky tropes work anymore?).

And the main villain is a weak one — a generic billionaire fueled by greed and power. We don’t ever know much about him, and he is as bland as those stock photos companies put in their frames to entice purchasers. I couldn’t find his name in the credits, that’s the impression he makes.

Kinberg has many producing and writing credits, but as a director, hasn’t exhibited much to get excited about – yet.

Two screenwriters, Theresa Rebeck – Emmy-nominated for TV work, with a long resume including “Law and Order” and “NYPD Blue,” and Bek Smith, joined Kinberg on the script. They pile on the cliches about the women not necessarily enjoying being lone wolves and trust issues. When protecting everyone from danger, it’s tough to have what people regard as a conventional lifestyle. Their pity parties are short-lived, though, because they like being Girl Bosses.

They leave the film open-ended for a sequel, just in case they want to get the band back together. The dream team would need a better script, but seeing them triumph in this long-delayed film is an OK escape during the dreary part of frosty winter.

“The 355” is an action thriller directed by Simon Kinberg. It stars Jessica Chastain, Lupita Nyong’o, Diane Kruger, Penelope Cruz, Sebastian Stan, Edgar Ramirez and Bingbing Fan. Rated: PG-13 for sequences of strong violence, brief strong language, and suggestive material, it opens only in theatres on Jan. 7. Lynn’s Grade: C.