Heart Of Stone Review: Gal Gadot Shows Off Action Chops In Generic Spy Thriller
2023/09/07

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It's probably safe to say that Netflix has a so-so track record when it comes to its action movies. For every hit, such as the Chris Hemsworth-led movies, there are more mixed offerings like and , which rack up big viewership numbers but fail to leave an impact critically. The streamer's latest offering, director Tom Harper's , attempts to put its own spin on a familiar action flick and break through that mold, but its results are mixed. The movie deserves some credit for putting its faith in female strength and introducing fascinating character dynamics, but its plot is too generic to stand out amid other recent action movies.

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A covert mission atop a snowy mountain in Italy introduces Agent Rachel Stone (Gal Gadot), a tech whiz often kept in the van away from the action. She's part of an elite MI6 team led by Parker (a solid Jamie Dornan), and her job is strictly hacking; at least, that's what her fellow agents think. In reality, Stone is a member of the Charter, a shadowy, near-legendary organization that operates outside governmental boundaries to keep peace around the world. Stone's skills exceed that of her MI6 colleagues, partially because the Charter holds an incredible weapon: The Heart, an omniscient computer program that can access pretty much everything everywhere all at once.

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When Stone is compromised and the Heart is put in danger, she finds herself up against Keya (Alia Bhatt), a skilled hacker with past criminal ties. Exactly what Keya wants with the Heart is a mystery, but Stone is determined to protect the Charter and get justice for some wrongs inflicted on her life. To say more would be to get into spoiler territory, and does manage to pull a surprise or two out of its screenplay, penned by Greg Rucka and Allison Schroeder and based on a story by Rucka. For all of

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's more clever aspects, though, such as the dynamic that arises between Rachel and Keya, it falls prey to some of the more frustrating tropes of the action genre. The Heart itself is the biggest example, as it's only the latest in a long line of ultra-powerful AI-like weapons to arise onscreen.

Coming just a month after the similarly-minded doesn't do many favors, especially when it comes to its action, which does at times pale in comparison to the more realistic spectacles of the Tom Cruise-led franchise. thankfully doesn't rely too much on the Heart's capabilities to push the plot forward, but there's still a strong sense of been there, done that.

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The Heart is just another vaguely defined, far too powerful tech MacGuffin, leaving the plot to locate and protect it feeling disappointingly generic. doesn't hold any major standout action sequences either, though Harper does stage each one well enough to spark interest. In terms of its overall production, Steven Price's score adds an exciting edge to the drama playing out, and director of photography George Steel keeps the camera moving in a dynamic way.

As Rachel, Gadot leads with the same quiet strength and genuine heart she brought to the franchise. It's not a role that pushes her to new places, but Gadot has certainly proven she's an excellent action star, and there is the possibility that a could take the character further (there's no explicit cliffhanger, but the door is open for more Stone). Bhatt gets more layers to play as Keya, whose motivations are grayer than her initial introduction might suggest. She skillfully rides the line between nefarious and earnest, making her 's most intriguing figure. Sophie Okonedo and Mattias Schweighöfer fill in supporting roles within the Charter, with Okonedo especially making an impression as Stone's formidable boss and mentor Nomad. Though the script at times does more telling instead of showing with them, the clear respect and affection between Nomad and Rachel helps nudge towards something a bit more substantial.

starts off with a unique layer to its spy story firmly in place, as Rachel is hiding her true skill set from her MI6 teammates. This gives the character meaty internal conflict that would be interesting to see play out. However, a plot twist erases that conflict almost midway through the movie, sending it into a more simplistic place it never quite gets out of. The interactions Stone has with both Nomad and Keya hint at something more interesting, but with the Heart kept firmly as its primary focus, never rises to true greatness. It's an entertaining movie that also serves as a great showcase for Gadot's action chops, but it might not linger long in the memories of viewers.

begins streaming on Netflix Friday, August 11. It is 125 minutes long and rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, and some language.

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