🎞️ When is Heart of Stone on Netflix: 11 August, 2023
⭐️ Our rating: 3/5
🎭 Who's in it? Gal Gadot, Jamie Dornan, Sophie Okonedo, Matthias Schweighofer, Alia Bhatt, BD Wong and Glenn Close
👍 What we liked: That director Tom Harper makes the most of those action sequences, while Gal Gadot impresses as Rachel Stone despite some obvious creative obstacles.
👎 What we didn't: That the plot was paper thin filler, while a solid gold ensemble cast were reduced to woeful archetypes solely there to move things forward.
📖 What's it about? An intelligence operative for a shadowy global peacekeeping agency races to stop a hacker from stealing its most valuable and dangerous weapon.
Written by Greg Rucka (The Old Guard) and Allison Schroeder (Hidden Figures), director Tom Harper (The Aeronauts) is quick to establish Heart of Stone as an exotic action adventure. Name checking Lisbon, Iceland and Senegal as undercover IT operative Rachel Stone jet sets around the world fighting crime.
Read more: Everything new on Netflix in August
Morphing from inventive opening sequence into outlandish set piece, Rachel is introduced hacking the phone of criminal mastermind Mulvaney (Enzo Cilenti), alongside Parker (Jamie Dornan), Yang (Jing Lusi) and Bailey (Paul Ready).
When the team are split up and she is forced to improvise, counterintelligence outfit The Charter is called into play, turning Rachel into an Atomic Blonde action hero with shades of Salt thrown in. Operating outside the jurisdiction of MI6, but under the nose of her teammates, this slick switcheroo might sound predictable but is executed with flare and panache.
However, in true espionage fashion Rachel’s cover is soon compromised and she is cut off from MI6 before being disowned by The Charter. Leaving the ever-resourceful agent up against it, with enemies everywhere and limited options.
A situation which gets worse when old friends turn rogue and others are gunned down, and arch nemesis Keya Dwahan (Alia Bhatt) is out for blood.
What goes down from then on cranks up the crazy, as quantum computers go missing, other action sequences are liberally lifted from elsewhere and threats are turned up to 11. Meaning that any audience worth their salt should consign Heart of Stone to the bargain bin at this point.
However, against all the odds there is no denying that this film is entertaining. It may be true that the storyline is uninspired, derivative and flies in the face of originality – but it does deliver bang for your buck on the big screen.
A fact which is important to understand, because on the biggest television possible those visual effects pop, those impressive locations distract, and the paper-thin plot ceases to matter. Allowing audiences to fully immerse themselves in this Mission: Impossible homage, where sky diving onto a glass zeppelin seems reasonable.
However, beyond the death-defying action beats, there are also several standout performances to appreciate alongside Gal Gadot. Not least of which is Sophie Okonedo (Death on the Nile) as Rachel Stone’s wrangler Nomad.
What other critics thought of Heart of Stone:
Deadline: Spy Thriller Leans Heavily Into Familiar Bond-Style Action Overload (6-min read)
The Telegraph: Gal Gadot’s Bond-alike thriller lands with a thud (3-min read)
The Independent: Gal Gadot leads a drab, forgettable, poorly lit mess from Netflix (3-min read)
A portrayal passed on in snippets, she delivers some pure slices of character-acting gold and gives the whole enterprise gravitas. As does the presence of Matthias Schweighöfer (Army of the Dead), who keeps the pulse of a quantum computer racing as the Jack of Hearts.
This is something which ultimately elevates the feel-good factor and turns Heart of Stone into a guilty pleasure worth catching.
Heart of Stone is released on Netflix from Friday, 11 August.