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Review: Heart of Stone (2023)

Heart of Stone (2023)

Directed by: Tom Harper

Premise: Rachel Stone (Gal Gadot) is part of an ultra-clandestine organization of rogue superspies known as The Charter. Stone uncovers a plot by a terrorist group to steal a powerful computer hacking program.

What Works: As Heart of Stone begins, Gal Gadot’s character is in an interesting position. She is an elite action hero who is part of The Charter, an independent group of superspies, who is embedded within MI6 and keeps her identity a secret from the team. Stone’s allegiance is split between The Charter and MI6 and the first third of Heart of Stone has an interesting tension as Stone intervenes to save her colleagues while disguising her true identity. The characterization of the team is quite good. In this specific respect, Heart of Stone gets beyond some of the cliches of espionage movies. A lot of spy films are filled with unflappable characters who have no life or personality outside of their jobs but the MI6 team members in Heart of Stone have a likable rapport. The film also has an interesting villain played by Alia Bhatt. Her motivations are a little more complicated than the average spy thriller heavy and Bhatt projects intelligence and internal conflict that makes her the most interesting character in the movie.

What Doesn’t: Unfortunately, that likable relationship between Stone and the MI6 team ultimately comes to nothing. Stone’s inevitable reveal of her secret identity runs into a dead end and she spends the rest of the picture on her own. Losing its one novelty, Heart of Stone becomes a cliché superspy actioner. Despite featuring car chases, shootouts, explosions, and one impressive skydiving set piece, not much about Heart of Stone is thrilling or exciting. A lot of the film’s problems come down to a lack of stakes and a thoughtlessly conceived story world. The MacGuffin is an advanced hacking tool that is somehow contained within a canister the size of a soda can. This system can penetrate any computer network and in the wrong hands it can unleash havoc. The stakes of this conflict are never anything more than vague in part because it’s not clear why it matters if one group or another possesses this tool. The Charter is supposed to be the good guys but they are a group of spies who have gone rogue. There’s virtually nothing differentiating The Charter from the villains. They both go around the globe unilaterally killing people without government sanction or oversight. Ultimately everyone in Heart of Stone is a terrorist but this movie is too dumb to recognize its own moral complications. Superhero movies have often entertained similar lawlessness but at least those movies questioned their character’s motives and created dramatically interesting conflicts. Heart of Stone is empty and stupid.

Disc extras: On Netflix.

Bottom Line: Heart of Stone is a generic action movie that isn’t thrilling or even engaging. The filmmakers squander the little bit that made the movie interesting and resort to a boilerplate superspy plot saddled with dumb conflicts.

Episode: #961 (August 20, 2023)