Heart of Stone

Heart of Stone
Original title:Heart of Stone
Director:Tom Harper
Running time:123 minutes
Release date:11 august 2023
Rachel Stone, an intelligence specialist for a mysterious peacekeeping agency, is trying to prevent a hacker from stealing her most valuable and formidable weapon.

Mulder's Review

Heart of Stone, Netflix's latest big-budget film directed by Tom Harper, promised to breathe new life into the spy thriller genre, rivaling established franchises such as James Bond and Mission: Impossible. Tom Harper, known for his work on the films Wild Rose and The Aeronauts, creates a world of covert operations, advanced technology and international espionage that immediately draws comparisons with the excellent Citadel series, directed by the Russo brothers.

The film's premise, centered on a secret espionage force operating outside government control, attempts to capture the essence of classic James Bond escapades. What sets Heart of Stone apart, however, is its unexpected ability to inject fun and excitement into the narrative, setting it apart from the algorithm-driven content often associated with streaming giants like Netflix.

Gal Gadot's interpretation of Rachel Stone is remarkable, as she elevates the character beyond typical action-hero tropes. Her chemistry with the MI6 team members, played by Jamie Dornan, Jing Lusi and Paul Ready, adds depth to the camaraderie and dynamics within the group. The revelation of Rachel's true identity and the ensuing attack on the Charter bring a narrative shift that maintains the audience's interest and investment.

While the film has its moments, it is not without its flaws. The second half struggles to maintain initial commitment, with certain action sequences becoming predictable and dependent on CGI. Ambitious aerial scenes sometimes fall flat due to their synthetic aspect. Nevertheless, the willingness to shoot in real locations, such as London and Iceland, prevents the film from seeming too artificial.

One of the film's greatest assets is its thematic exploration of artificial intelligence and its ethical implications. The screenplay, written by Greg Rucka and Allison Schroeder, delves into the moral dilemmas surrounding artificial intelligence, bringing a layer of reflection to the action-packed narrative.

While Heart of Stone doesn't reach the heights of cinematic masterpieces like the latest Mission Impossible installment, it does manage to carve out a place as an entertaining addition to Netflix's original content. The film's commitment to creating visual and narrative spectacle is evident. As Netflix strives to achieve blockbuster success, Heart of Stone marks a clear step in the right direction.

On the other hand, director Tom Harper's Heart of Stone arrives with a beguiling title that hints at a technological plot and emotionally distant characters. The story, written by Greg Rucka and Allison Schroeder, follows Rachel Stone, played by Gal Gadot, a seemingly ordinary technician embedded in an elite MI6 team led by Jamie Dornan's Agent Parker. However, Stone's hidden identity as a member of the Charter, a secret espionage group, sets the scene for a story of espionage, technology and global conflict.

The film starts off strong, with an exhilarating undercover mission in the Italian Alps, featuring impressive fight and chase sequences. However, as the plot unfolds, Heart of Stone struggles to find its feet, sinking into generic spy tropes and inadequate character development. While Gal Gadot maintains a stoic consistency in her portrayal of Rachel Stone, the emotional depth required for her character's inner conflict is nowhere to be found. The chemistry between the characters often seems forced, with interactions lacking depth and witty exchanges coming to nothing. Alia Bhatt's Hollywood debut as the hacker Keya brings little to the film, hampered by stilted writing and an unconvincing performance.

The quality of the film's action sequences is variable, some offering fleeting moments of excitement, while others suffer from uninspired choreography and unconvincing direction. The cinematography effectively captures the various locations, but a monotonous gray color palette becomes visually wearying.

Heart of Stone fails to explore cutting-edge technology and espionage, offering superficial commentary without deepening the themes. The concept of The Charter's omniscient AI, the Heart, remains intriguing but underdeveloped, leaving the audience with unanswered questions.

Although the film hints at the potential of a gripping spy thriller, it fails to deliver a truly compelling cinematic experience. Despite brief moments of excitement and Gal Gadot's charismatic performance, Heart of Stone struggles to rise above its banal plot and lackluster execution. Director Tom Harper's film has potential, but feels like a missed opportunity in the realm of modern spy cinema.

Heart of Stone
Directed by Tom Harper
Written by Greg Rucka, Allison Schroeder
Story by Greg Rucka
Produced by David Ellison, Dana Goldberg, Don Granger, Gal Gadot, Jaron Varsano, Bonnie Curtis, Julie Lynn
Starring Gal Gadot, Jamie Dornan, Alia Bhatt, Sophie Okonedo, Matthias Schweighöfer
Cinematography : George Steel
Edited by Mark Eckersley
Music by Steven Price
Production companies : Skydance, Pilot Wave, Mockingbird Pictures
Distributed by Netflix
Release date : August 11, 2023
Running time : 123 minutes

Viewed on 08 August 2023 (Screener press Netflix)

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