Directed by: Tom Harper
Distributed by: Netflix
Written by Anna Harrison
If you asked me to remember any of the mindless action gruel starring A-listers that Netflix has put out over the last few years, I don’t think I could name a single one. Their most memorable traits are the stars whose faces dominate the posters, and everything else gets lost in the drudge: the directors are invisible, the word-of-mouth nonexistent, and the fanfare brief and subdued as the movie gets unceremoniously dumped on a streaming platform already overcrowded with dozens of similar offerings. I will likely forget everything that happened in “Heart of Stone” in the time it takes between writing this review and publishing it, and in a few weeks’ time, Netflix will have forgotten about it, too.
This isn’t to say that “Heart of Stone” is an actively bad or offensive movie, it just lacks any sort of heart on its own, making its title more than just a pun about the name of its protagonist, Rachel Heart (Gal Gadot). Rachel is a member of the Charter, a group of spies from all around the world who have decided that forming their own rogue organization is the most righteous thing they can do, which… is certainly an idea. If there are any checks and balances within the organization, they are left up to the viewers’ imagination.
Rachel has infiltrated MI6 as part of her mission for the Charter, where she and her MI6 team—Parker (Jamie Dornan), Yang (Jing Lusi), and Bailey (Paul Ready)—have been assigned to take out an international arms dealer. Despite her secrets, Rachel has grown fond of the ragtag group, each of whom get unoriginal personality assignments: Parker is a bit uptight, Yang is cool and collected, and Bailey is the joker. So when things go awry and the Charter is forced to intervene, Rachel is sad. How terrible.
The mastermind behind these unfortunate mishaps is a young woman named Keya (Alia Bhatt), an Indian whizkid who wants access to the artificial intelligence at the center of the Charter, known as the Heart. The Heart helps the Charter determine where to interfere with the fewest risks, and can do all sorts of technological nonsense. It’s hard not to draw parallels with the latest “Mission Impossible” movie, though “Heart of Stone” seems a bit more divided on the use of AI than Tom Cruise—when Keya gains access to the Heart, the Charter pulls out all the stops to regain possession of its tool, rather than stopping for a moment to consider if an AI making decisions for a rogue spy network is, just maybe, not that great. Unfortunately, writers Greg Rucka and Allison Schroeder give this dilemma only a cursory glance, leaving the rot at the heart of the Charter largely unexamined.
In fact, most of “Heart of Stone” feels as though it was churned out by an AI, from the standard plot to the unexciting action sequences. Director Tom Harper choreographs uninspiring action sequences, even with the advantage of beautiful, globetrotting backdrops like the Swiss Alps, Iceland, and Lisbon, and there is only so much he or his cast can do to elevate the exposition-heavy script. Gadot and Dornan do most of the heavy lifting here and manage to almost succeed from sheer charisma (which Gadot has in spades, even if she lacks skill), and Matthias Schweighöfer as Jack of Hearts, the Charter’s tech guy, provided a few laughs—and I suppose that “Heart of Stone” was never meant to be anything more than a Sunday afternoon background watch, and so in that case… mission accomplished.
“Heart of Stone” Trailer