Tom Harper’s “Heart of Stone” is a Guilty Pleasure, But That’s All it Has to Offer
If you ever needed an example of taking the bad parts of the best bits, look to “Heart of Stone”, a wannabe spy movie desperately eager to join the exclusive club of successful spy franchises such as “James Bond”, “Mission Impossible”, and “Kingsman”. But it fails miserably in that and nearly everything else except weirdly from its engaging feature.
The plot is what you’d expect from a typical 21st-century spy movie. Rachel (Gal Gadot), an agent of a secret international intelligence agency known in these parts as the Charter, works undercover as an MI6 tech agent. Her team – when she isn’t “chartering” around – comprises a getaway driver, Bailey (Paul Ready); lady of the bunch, Yang (Jing Lusi); and the quintessential British stud, Parker (Jamie Dornan) who, by the way, is a perfect fit to play James Bond.
Charter and MI6 aren’t exactly friends. They aren’t foes either but, you know, someone has to play the bad guy and to the British Intelligence, it’s the former. What’s different though is that the Charter possesses what no man ever has: The Heart. And this refers not to the metaphorical representation of courage and resilience, which some of their agents embody, but a supercomputer capable of hacking into anything and everything: from planes to elevators to nuclear-tipped missiles. Nothing is off-limits.
It starts out promising in the first half with two shocking twists long enough to pique your interest. But as it goes on, you soon realize that this movie frauds its way into your liking. Gadot plays her part nicely, although you’d have witnessed far better portrayals such as Charlize Theron’s “Atomic Blonde”. But unlike the latter whose performance was instrumental in the film’s success, the former’s charm fails to buoy this movie from sinking into obscurity. The movie completely ignores the opportunity to fully delve into Rachel’s past and motivations which detracts from an otherwise interesting character.
The motivations of the villain are even more problematic. “Some folks tried to kill me in Russia decades ago, so I’ll just burn the world down” isn’t exactly a well-conceived thought process, especially for an intelligence officer. Keya (Alia Bhatt), an interesting character, seems like she was put there to show the world how good Indian hackers were. A lot more could have been done with her other than giving her the most predictable character arc in history.
Poor writing and execution remarkably undermine the potential of “Heart of Stone” even as it tries to establish itself as Netflix’s next big thing. It may be difficult to overlook the attempt at showcasing female empowerment: a female lead with a female sub-lead and a male antagonist.
But even at that, it falls far short of the mark. One significant message lurks beneath all of the dismay: the fallibility of AI. In an age of Artificial Intelligence, the movie effectively highlights the potential for both precision and error – no matter how slim – in even the most advanced versions of this technology. The central message – the perils of AI falling into the wrong hands – however, is, like almost every element of the movie, rushed through dialogue reducing the stakes to a complete zero. For a man who penned “The Old Guard”, Greg Rucka’s screenplay is a huge downgrade exacerbated by Tom Harper’s questionable directorial abilities.
Notwithstanding, “Heart of Stone” boasts a visually captivating appearance. From the busy streets of Lisbon to the deserts of Senegal and the Icy plains of Italy and Iceland, there’s a lot of traveling in this movie. While not sporting Mission Impossible-like spectacle, it’s decent enough to want to hang around for the rest of the runtime. There’s not much to look forward to or say about “Heart of Stone”. Just have a great time with this passable popcorn action movie and forget about it the next day–because you will.
Release date: August 11, 2023
Runtime: 2 hours, and 2 minutes
Streaming Service: Netflix
Director: Tom Harper
Cast: Gal Gadot, Alia Bhatt, Jamia Dornan, Paul Ready, Jing Lusi, Enzo Cilenti, Matthias Schweighofer, Sophie Okonedo, and Archie Madekwe