Heart of Stone premieres August 11th on Netflix
Someone finds the Gal Gadot franchise to be a good lead, because Heart of Stone isn’t. Netflix’s latest original thriller plunges Gadot into the role of the world-weary Rachel Stone, a brilliant and super-competent operative for Charter, an underground international peacekeeping organization that spies on spies to maintain a mysterious mission statement about the global balance. With the help of The Heart – referred to as “the world’s most powerful AI” – she is tasked with traveling the world blowing up lots of things and “stopping the bad guys” whoever they are. Stone enjoys James Bond and Carmen Sandiego’s passport, but he’s neutralized by text-stuffed cardboard letters.
Heart of Stone opens with plenty of promise in an action-packed, oversized prequel that introduces us to Stone on her first field assignment with an established MI6 infiltration team that includes Jamie Dornan-Parker. They are set at an exclusive mountaintop Italian ski resort where a notorious arms dealer is about to make a very dangerous deal. Stone is in disguise as the “green” tech innovator they think they have to pamper. It turns out that she is actually a charter activist who works to ensure that guns don’t end up in the wrong hands.
What follows is the film’s most visually ingenious set piece, shot during sunset on the snow-laden Italian mountains, which Stone has to descend into in the dark. At the very least, the introduction is eye-catching and outlines what the heart looks like and what it can do, which is to collect data on Everything And everyone So that he can accurately predict the results.
In Stone’s case, The Heart also acts as the strapped-down virtual mission friend telling her where to go and what to do as the machine’s handler, Jack (Matthias Schweegwer), crunches numbers in the basement of HQ away. His role is to eavesdrop as he makes quick hand gestures and quickly flips through digital images; Lydia Tarr from A Poor Man Does an Expensive Virtual Reality Business. A quantum computer is so powerful that everyone who knows it likes to whisper ominously: “If you own The Heart, you own the World.” However, what’s utterly baffling is that halfway through, all of The Heart’s beautiful bells and whistles shut down, tearing One The unique thing that the heart of stone did. Unless they’re out of VFX money, this is a totally baffling choice.
Stone Heart Gallery
However, a brilliant young hacker named Keya Dhawan (Alia Bhatt), has a personal vendetta against The Heart, bent on controlling it with her own group of dissenting thinkers and thugs. Because Stone is a work rather than a play—some might say she is taken advantage of by Charter—they share a grieving girl’s sense of mutual understanding throughout the film. Director Tom Harper’s smartest call is to draw on Gadot’s inherent ability to create empathy between characters, which adds plenty of spark to Rachel and Keya’s scenes. But any genuine exploration of who they are as people, rather than their ideological leanings, is marred by the film’s frantic pace.
Greg Rucka and Alison Schroeder’s script allows no space for any substantial moments of drama or nuance for anyone in the cast. This is Heart of Stone’s Achilles’ heel: Stone and company are reduced to a cast of spy characters, saddled with cringe-worthy dialogue, or worse, used as cannon fodder to spark some kind of unearned emotional moment for the hero. But perhaps that’s for the best, because otherwise the audience would have plenty of time to question the logic of how the people on screen could survive a desert picnic for hours without water. or how so a lot Bullets never manage to hit stone, even in open areas. At least when The Heart is on, there’s a semi-legitimate excuse for Stone’s excessive good luck. When it’s offline, the entire movie turns into a far-fetched fantasy.
Heart of Stone has a sleek look but consists entirely of empty-calorie set pieces that ooze significantly from other contemporary action films like The Gray Man, Extraction, or Red Notice. It ticks so many familiar boxes that you can finally anticipate every revelation of mustache twirl, “sudden” death, or eye-rolling countdown clock. It’s hard to get excited about Stone’s future adventures when there’s no reason to care about the remaining characters at the end of this one.
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