If Ethan Hunt did not literally try to fight an AI force in the latest Mission Impossible film, do you think Tom Harper’s Heart of Stone would have had a better impact? I think not. While Cruise and the team were broken to pieces fighting a force of unfathomable power whose every step was ahead of them, the allied forces in the Netflix original are all about gaining that power for taking revenge or just cleaning out the clutter. 

Unlike Dead Reckoning, Heart of Stone never manages to make the stakes feel like they are like a knife hanging between your balls, and neither does it have the ability to second-guess your idea of how practical effects are as essential to action films as its story itself. Heart of Stone is, therefore, a spy-thriller that uses terribly tired espionage cliches to give us another serviceable action film that has to lead a franchise. 

First of all, the film directly drops you into the action. A bold choice for sure, but when the writing doesn’t have the gusto to follow it up with a character-driven tale, you are probably just squandering the potential of what could otherwise be a far superior product.

The sudden drop introduces us to a group of MI-6 operatives led by Parker (Jamie Dornan) as they try to find a way to get to a wanted arms dealer who has emerged out of exile. Rachel Stone (Gal Gadot), who is supposedly a vulnerable asset of the group and almost always stays out of the action to handle the tech side of things, has to step out when their coms fail to help them get in on the network. 

Expectedly, the plan goes sideways, and violence ensues. However, the key takeaway from the mishap isn’t getting the hands on the arms dealer, who eventually takes cyanide and dies, but a mysterious young woman who has somehow managed to hack into Stone’s totally tethered security detailing.

While the chaos explodes, we also learn that Stone is not a standby, doe tech genius alone. She is also a charismatic field agent who is brave, can drive, and kick ass. We get to know that she is actually working for ‘The Charter,’ which is a group of extensively trained specialists who have a background in intelligence operations and operate independently without any kind of affiliations to an agency or political bias.

Their greatest asset is ‘The Heart,’ a quantum-programmed intelligence source equipped with real-time data that helps them navigate difficult terrains of tracking unsolicited happenings and allowing their agents to seamlessly and secretly cap them off before things blow out of proportion. Stone is at the forefront of this operation, and since she has to be on her toes all the time, the team’s lead Nomad (Sophie Okonedo) has warned her not to have any kind of personal relationship with her team. 

Heart of Stone – (L to R) Jing Lusi as Yang and Jamie Dornan as Parker in Heart Of Stone. Cr. Robert Viglasky/Netflix © 2023.

The mysterious woman, on the other hand, turns out to be Keya Dhawan (Alia Bhatt), who, The Charter, and thereby MI6, learns is after The Heart. Stone is tasked to neutralize Keya before it’s too late, but things don’t go as planned, and the mission becomes much more complicated when the team heads to Lisbon. 

Now, Heart of Stone is slightly better than most of its Netflix action counterparts like Red Notice and The Grey Man entirely because it starts off as a movie that is about Stone – a cold, calculative agent who has been so isolated from any kind of physical and social interaction that in spite of all her tries, she can’t help but be empathetic towards those around her.

It also plots a disrupter whose motives feel unclear, but due to the seminal choice of casting Alia Bhatt, it allows the plot to thicken. However, once the first plot twist is brought in, Heart of Stone turns into a by-the-numbers and embarrassingly feeble thriller that completely disregards its more human elements to counter for action set pieces. It is almost ironic that its central point of not being too dependent on Artificial Intelligence and leaning on humans with a thinking brain just snips out into thin air. 

It’s also sad that none of the action sequences are memorable. The excessiveness of the CGI is so abhorrent and visible that no matter how well some of the hand-to-hand combat is, the sensory overload by the fakeness of it all fails to capture the true essence of this story. Heart of Stone also wastes the talent of Jamie Dornan and Alia Bhatt, both formidable actors, on characters that are so listless and humorless that you want to yell in their ears to make them wake up a little. Gal Gadot’s Rachel Stone is the only serving grace here, but her limited acting chops don’t let Stone become as memorable as she could have been. 

Overall, Heart of Stone is another cliched spy thriller by Netflix that does very little to stand out and will be soon forgotten in the long line of the streamer’s products. 

Heart of Stone (2023) Movie Links: IMDbRotten Tomatoes
Heart of Stone (2023) Movie Cast: Gal Gadot, Jamie Dornan, Alia Bhatt, Jing Lusi, Paul Ready, Matthias Schweighöfer, Sophie Okonedo
Where to watch Heart of Stone

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