First, the good news. Heart of Stone will definitely get many thumbs up from nerdy adolescents who appreciate the thriller genre. This is one of the most action-packed films of this or any season, jam-packed with apocalyptic scenes from such far-flung locations as London, Lisbon, Senegal, Reykjavik, and the Tyrolean Alps. The movie exposes the secretive dealings of The Charter, a mysterious and sometimes ruthless espionage entity that monitors and controls global events using digital technology and artificial intelligence. The special effects are stunning, especially the scenes when a Charter techie conjures up immersive animated panoramas with the wave of a hand, in the spirit of a presto-alakazam magician. It’s Disney’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice on steroids, minus the Stokowski. Kudos to the artistic team who made all this possible.
Directed by Tom Harper, Heart of Stone follows a young intelligence agent, Rachel Stone (played by Gal Gadot), on her mission to defend the AI system known as “The Heart.” The project has been gestating for quite a while: It was announced back in December of 2020 that Gadot’s appearance would be the beginning of a franchise in the Mission Impossible and 007 camps. In early 2022, Jamie Doman joined the cast as co-star, followed by Alia Bhatt, Sophie Okonedo, Matthias Schweighofer, Jing Lusi, and Paul Ready. The story was written by Greg Rucka and Allison Schroeder.
But what this film lacks is good old-fashioned unspecial effects, like character development. There is so much sizzle here that we can’t easily find the steak, which is pretty much a bland slab of meat overall. While Gadot delivers a performance of cold-blooded ruthlessness worthy of her character’s name, she rarely lets us know what has motivated her to take on the role in the first place. Was she doing it out of patriotic duty? To settle old scores? As revenge for a love affair gone sour? We really don’t know for sure. This is not to minimize the obvious talent and skill that she poured into the performance, so I would attribute these lapses to the directors and editors, who haven’t braked the action enough to give us a deeper insight into what makes the characters tick like time bombs.
Or perhaps they’re just trying to tell us that humans are innately depraved when left to their own devices? This, too, is not completely true, for there are some scenes, albeit fleeting, when the players do listen to their better angels and act out of genuine tenderness and empathy, as when characters try to rescue others from the messes they have made for themselves.
But all these finer moments invariably get lost in the explosive car chases, which makes those in The French Connection look like a sedate tea party. Too bad, for the storyline in Heart of Stone certainly deals with some of the existential questions of our day, such as how humans can survive in a world hell-bent on ruthlessness and lovelessness. Maybe it should have been titled Waiting for Gadot?
Here’s the trailer of the film.