2023 | PG-13 | starring Gal Gadot, Jamie Dornan, Alia Bhatt, Mattias Schweighofer, Glenn Close | directed by Tom Harper | 2h 2m |
Heart of Stone is a 90s throwback action movie that doesn’t know and doesn’t want to be a 90s throwback action movie. This is the kind of movie that were it made in the 90s, it would feature a scene where star Gal Gadot had to go undercover as a lingerie model for some thinly veiled reason, it would happen in the film at about the 1 hour mark and those images would have been plastered all over the film’s trailer and promotional material. But that piece of titillation would be a symptom of a movie that was fun and didn’t take itself too seriously. But this is the comic book, PG-13, sexless, message-driven movie landscape of 2023 and that kind of cheeky fun is strictly forbidden.
Hitting streaming about a month too late, Heart of Stone comes off like the question that Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning was answering. Both feature an all-powerful AI supercomputer that can anticipate every action controlled by a spy group who run around the world trying to keep it out of the wrong hands. Where Ethan Hunt’s immediate reaction is to “kill it” because no government should have this power (yay), the shadowy spy organization that Gal Gadot’s Rachel Stone is part of, The Charter, wants to protect it because only they can be trusted with the power (boo). And yes, Gadot’s character is called Stone and the all-knowing AI is nicknamed The Heart – see it is a 90s action movie somewhere in there.
The first act is it’s most interesting and it might be something I haven’t seen before. We’ve seen our superspies in deep cover in an organization only to break it when the action hits the fan, but I don’t think we’ve ever seen them in deep cover inside another spy organization. That’s where Stone is as part of an MI6 operation in which she works with agent Parker (Jamie Dornan) as the techie that “stays in the van” while really carrying out the orders of The Charter, run by Nomad (Sophie Okonedo), while the Jack of Hearts (Matthias Schweighofer, Army of the Dead) stands at a Minority Report interactive display and translates The Heart’s predictions. They run up against a hacker (Aliah Bhatt) trying to liberate the Heart, Stone seeks to protect it and car chases, fist fights and a zeppelin infiltration ensue.
Heart of Stone is this year’s Netflix entry in the summer blockbuster genre, which I’m totally ok with. It worked really well in The Old Guard a few years ago and hasn’t so much since with duds like 6 Underground, The Gray Man and Gadot’s own Red Notice smashing things up good and creating a lot of street level chaos for your surround sound home theater. Heart is particularly lazy though. It’s stitched together from plot points and set pieces from other movies. It has no identity of it’s own. It is hoisted on the back of Gadot who makes a totally charming Wonder Woman, but can’t deliver this kind of dialog to save her life. She’s given no help at all by the wet, wooden board acting style of Jamie Dornan or anybody else in the cast.