Heart of Stone Review

Heart of Stone
Heart of Stone
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Someone get Gal Gadot a better franchise to lead because it’s not Heart of Stone. Netflix’s newest original action thriller places her as Rachel Stone, a beautiful and highly effective operative with Charter, a secretive international underground peace-keeping agency that spies on the spies in order to maintain some murky mission statement about global balance. She is sent around the globe to blow up things and “stop the bad guys” with help from The Heart, “the world’s most powerful AI”. Like Bond but disinterested like Carmen San Diego, she has had her passport smashed into pieces by a script that is overwhelmed by cardboard characters.

The opening of Heart of Stone holds a lot of promise; an action-packed super-sized prologue acquainting us with Stone on her first field mission with an established MI6 infiltration team including Parker played by Jamie Dornan. They are assigned to an exclusive Italian mountain-top ski resort where a notorious arms dealer is about to make a very dangerous deal. To them, she goes undercover as the “green” tech noob who they think must hold their hands through everything. As it turns out though, she is actually a Charter operative along for the ride so that those arms don’t fall into the wrong hands.

These moments are among the most inventive visually in the movie; all shot at sundown in Italian snow-capped mountains as Stone descends them in darkness. At least for this part, the prologue is visually striking and shows us how The Heart looks and functions: as an encyclopedia that knows everyone and everything and thus can predict events accurately.

The Heart also works here as her virtual mission buddy tied onto her through The Heart, Jack (Matthias Schweighöfer) handles numbers in some clandestine basement HQ far away while snarking at people making quick hand movements over digital images like poor man’s Lydia Tár doing expensive VR. Everyone who knows about it would ominously whisper that this is probably the most powerful quantum computer on earth: “If you have The Heart, you own the world”. However, it is unthinkable that halfway through all those pretty bells and whistles are turned off in The Heart so that it loses the only interesting feature of Heart of Stone. Unless they ran out of VFX money, it’s an utterly confusing choice.

Still a brilliant young hacker called Keya Dhawan (Alia Bhatt) who has a vendetta against The Heart wants to take over it using her own group of opposing minds and thugs. Stone is all work and no play – well maybe even Charter exploits her some people might say; and hence they share throughout the film a sad girl vibe of mutual understanding. Tom Harper’s cleverest move was leaning into Gadot’s innate ability to create empathy between characters, which really makes Rachel and Keya’s scenes spark. On the other hand, any genuine exploration of who these ladies individually are apart from their ideological affiliations gets lost amid the frenetic pace of the film.

The script by Greg Rucka and Allison Schroeder, however, does not allow for any substantial flashbacks or intricacies of the cast. This is Stone’s Achilles heel: the characters here are just cardboard cutouts of spies, with all their lines either ridiculously bad or designed to make viewers weep over the senseless human loss. Yet if anything, that might be what saves it, as otherwise, the viewers would have plenty of time to think about how it is even possible that people on screen survive a desert hike without water for hours. Or why so many bullets never seem to hit her in the open ground. At least when The Heart is operational there is some quasi-reason for Stone’s extraordinary luck. But offline it just becomes a ridiculous fantasy.

Heart of Stone may look slick but its set pieces are empty-calorie rip-offs from other modern-day actioners like The Gray Man, Extraction, or Red Notice. By ticking off so many predictable boxes along the way, one could predict every mustache-twirling reveal, “shock” death, and eye-rolling countdown clock at this point. So when she survives this ordeal who cares if she goes on another Stone adventure?


Other than having Gal Gadot in the lead role once again as its only saving grace, Heart of Stone has little else going for it. If everything could be boiled down to statistics our algorithmic screenplay would be perfect: it ticks all international best-practice boxes required for a blockbuster these days; thus making sure that audiences worldwide will relate to the soulless amalgamation of elements determined by current metrics.

We’ve seen this movie before—from a multinational cast playing thin characters to loud and shiny visuals and various exotic locales chosen mainly because of the lucrative tax credits they offered upfront! And yet Gadot tries hard. Still, she has no breathing space amidst constant action scenes which makes it difficult to develop her character into something believable anyway other than throughout the opening prologue. But afterward, it is just a cacophony of noise and clichéd situations getting worse and worse with each passing minute. Heart of Stone is so busy setting up franchises that it forgets to be good enough for further chapters.

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