Following the success of films like Red Notice, Extraction 2, and The Mother on the global streaming service, Netflix is hoping to attract a new audience with its latest action-adventure, Heart of Stone, starring Gal Gadot and a star-studded cast that includes Jamie Dornan and Alia Bhatt.
The Tom Harper-directed picture, which opens this Friday, is undeniably enjoyable and engages the viewer with stunning action sequences and terrific performances. Heart of Stone, on the other hand, contains parts that feel very familiar and frequently rely on genre cliches.
Heart of Stone, from the executive producers of The Old Guard and Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning, establishes Gadot as a solid action series with huge Ethan Hunt undertones. We meet our hero, Gadot’s Rachel Stone, inside the first 20 minutes, establishing the film’s tone and direction with enough mystery and action to grab your interest ahead of its incredibly crisp and elegant opening credits scene. She is an inconspicuous computer tech agent in an elite MI6 squad led by lead agent Parker (Dornan).
Her squad, however, is unaware that she is an operative with The Charter, a secretive peacekeeping organisation that maintains secrets from other agencies using cutting-edge AI technology to combat global dangers. Despite being educated to be a polished professional and having kept her cover in MI6 for almost a year, things go wrong when a routine mission is interrupted by a mystery hacker named Keya (Bhatt).
Rachel’s life and identity are quickly thrown into disarray as she races against the clock to safeguard her teams and The Charter’s most important yet lethal asset, “The Heart,” from a rival team. Rachel depends on her humanity to lead the way and save the world from mass tragedies as she fights to defy the odds and grasp the fearsome weaponry owned by her organisation.
Heart of Stone may appear to be a carbon copy of Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning once spectators learn what “The Heart” is and the power it carries, but it manages to carve out its own personality and charm due to Gadot. The Wonder Woman actor brings heart and beauty to the sort of cliché spy thrillers that have usually been dominated by guys.
Gadot manages to employ a motorbike and a flying suit in manoeuvres that would awe Tom Cruise or even James Bond’s Daniel Craig. There’s even a one-on-one, hand-to-hand battle scenario on a cylindrical beam that Jason Bourne would like. The action scenes are staged really well, offering us some of Gadot’s most gorgeous battle moments since Wonder Woman.
When Hollywood constructs female action heroines, they are frequently thrown into plots that any guy can do — albeit in tighter clothes and with a focus on her sex appeal. Instead, Heart of Stone takes a humanistic approach to the age-old cliche, paving the way for a prospective female-led series that produces a heroine that is intellectual, with compassion serving as a driving factor for her actions. Not to add, the picture successfully mixes action and humour without ever appearing forced, owing to the naturalness that develops between the people and the situations they each find themselves in.
Heart of Stone manages to assemble a solid ensemble that leads the way and fills any holes left by the writing. Gadot’s portrayal is compelling and sincere, and she manages to take apart every gendered stereotype encountered in the espionage genre. Through exceptional attentiveness, she has a delightfully appealing gift for making every encounter personable and emotional.
Gadot’s magnetism manages to take this picture to a level unseen in other similar espionage thrillers by communicating Rachel’s smart reflexes and rollercoaster of emotions with facial subtleties and expressions. Seeing her in films like these is not only comfortable, but you can tell Gadot is having a good time, which makes the movie-watching experience even more delightful. Her expressiveness serves the film more than it serves her, thanks to Greg Rucka and Allison Schroeder’s script, which gives her a lot to deal with in terms of a brainy, sensitive woman in an ambitious high-octane environment.
With Gadot wielding such star power in Heart of Stone, Dornan’s performance as Parker, the MI6 team’s captain, is most brilliantly matched. While Parker may appear to be annoyed by Rachel’s lack of preparation as the team’s tech support, she gradually earns his respect. This results in a delightful connection and tension between the two, leaving us intrigued by their relationship.
Dornan, on the other hand, manages to preserve some mystery to his character, keeping us totally immersed in his aims and reasons. Parker has a utopian vision of how the world should be, but not in the way that spectators may assume, resulting in some highly dynamic and intense passages.
Not only that but Indian cinema sensation Alia Bhatt makes her English-language debut in Heart of Stone as the enigmatic 22-year-old hacker trying to steal “The Heart” and disrupt MI6 and The Charter’s plans. Bhatt manages to work extremely effectively with what she is given for Keya, bringing humour and a passionate conscience to the picture.
While several of the scenes with Bhatt might have been improved with greater speech, she makes the most of them and plays the character’s greenness in a cutthroat environment captivatingly. Through this naivety, we witness Bhatt as an actor with remarkable emotions who can hold her own in heated moments alongside Gadot and Dornan.
Matthias Schweighöfer, The Charter’s tech specialist and “Jack of Hearts,” who works directly with the AI at the heart of operations, joins Gadot in Heart of Stone. He is also Rachel’s personal handler in many respects, assisting her every step of the way. Schweighöfer provides a likeable portrayal full of energy and humour, free of the clichés found in Mission: Impossible or James Bond characters. Nomad is also a component of The Charter. Sophie Okonedo plays her as a tough and strong badass in command, bursting with brightness one moment and subtle evil the next.
The contrast she offers to the part is welcomed and provides much-needed mystery to her character, especially because it opens the door to a better understanding of Nomad’s objectives in the event of a sequel. Rachel’s team extends beyond her MI6 and Charter family, with Jing Lisu, Paul Ready, BD Wong, and a rare cameo by Glenn Close, who manages to captivate our attention in some very particular situations, rounding out the group.
Fans of the spy genre who want films with a great storyline that mixes intelligence and fast-paced action moments will enjoy Harper’s direction and the script by Rucka and Schroeder. While certain scenes feel extraneous, and the language for some of the characters should have been greater, the film still works and is set at an even pace that performs most appropriately and delivers on its promise of an action thriller. Though the graphics might be better in a few sequences and it occasionally feels like a TV production, Heart of Stone gets the job done and conceals its financial limits extremely effectively.
As our society gets increasingly engaged in social technologies and artificial intelligence works to empower how we approach information integration, the film raises a true point about the hazards of such a powerful instrument and the sinister forces endangering our security. Not to mention, in its two hours, Heart of Stone provides a riveting reflection on humanity and its quest of absolute power as a necessary component for existence.
Hollywood has long dissected AI in action films, most notably Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning, but Heart of Stone repackages that danger as a programme that aids mankind in averting a global disaster. However, with “The Heart” marketed as a great force that can alter everything once you have it, the film and its protagonists’ motives serve as a cautionary tale of capitalism’s resource commodification.
Heart of Stone is far from flawless, but it is a delightful picture that manages to break through certain pervasive gender stereotypes connected with this kind of cinema. This is not a feminist film in any manner, but its female characters are empowered every step of the way, calling the shots and making sure they are heard. Gadot is not just the finest performer for this character, but she also adds a fantastic charm to Rachel and the film’s idea that is lacking in so many of Netflix’s largest-budget movies.
While Rachel Stone has a long way to go, the film manages to provide some heart-pounding moments and unexpected twists and turns. Not to mention a bright, cold-hearted villain who plays the merciless role flawlessly and keeps you guessing about their next move.
Heart of Stone creates a new character in the espionage thriller genre with vigour and elegance. Despite certain encounters with conventional genre cliches and predictable action rhythms, the picture manages to thrill with its knockout scenes, humour, and performances. The picture has good entertainment value thanks to some really satisfying, high-powered fights and a plot that works, thanks to a cast of highly recognised performers like Gadot, Dornan, and Bhatt.
Heart of Stone may appear to be simply another Netflix action film that will fade into obscurity on the streaming site, but it has a furious kick owing to its hero. The picture works as a standalone or a series starter, with unrelenting drive provided by well-calibrated thrills and compassion. If the latter is the case, we will undoubtedly want to see more.