The new Gal Gadot espionage thriller, Heart of Stone, is now streaming, but should you give it a watch?
It’s January 2021 (I know. I’m sorry).
Wonder Woman 1984 had just dropped day & date for Warner Bros / HBO Max. The Snyder Cut of the Justice League was coming soon and Netflix has just announced their big-budget action film Red Notice was coming out later that year.
It was a good time to be Gal Gadot so much so that Netflix outbid the competition at the auction for global distribution rights for the spy production Heart of Stone, which had none other than Gadot herself attached to star and produce the film under her and her husband Jaron Varsano’s production banner Pilot Wave.
But now it’s Summer 2023 (Also, sorry? Probably?)
Red Notice was seen by many, but critically dismantled. Death on the Nile barely registered with audiences as the low-watt follow-up to the box-office success of Murder on the Orient Express. And now, the status of the Wonder Woman franchise is up in the air at best for Warner Brother’s new DCU under James Gunn.
So maybe a rebirth of sorts is in order for Gal Gadot. Something to bring her back into the action mold and give her a chance at new life beyond Wonder Woman.
Well, Netflix is hoping the timing of that rebirth takes place this weekend as the long-awaited & much-anticipated Heart of Stone will finally be available on the platform.
On paper, the ingredients are all here for a successful action film recipe. The film was developed by Skydance Media, which has had great success with the Mission: Impossible series and Top Gun: Maverick as of recent. The story & script were written by the prolific comic book writer Greg Rucka, who previously helped Netflix bring his graphic novel The Old Guard to the streamer in 2020. And outside of the experienced Gadot, the cast boasts Netflix action veterans Jamie Dornan (Belfast, 50 Shades of Grey), who starred in the underrated war film The Siege of Jadotville, and German actor Matthias Schweighofer, who was a standout in Army of the Dead and its spinoff Army of Thieves.
However, one could argue that these ingredients, along with its incredibly familiar story, characters, & secret organization, run far too close to being another Mission: Impossible recreation. In fact, the plot summary sounds like a remix of the latest MI movie, Dead Reckoning – Part 1.
‘International intelligence agent Rachel Stone must embark on a dangerous mission to protect the mysterious intelligence-gathering super weapon known as “The Heart.” Stone is tasked by the peacekeeping operation known as The Charter to keep the object safe from falling into enemy hands.’
The Charter, a shadowy global peacekeeping agency much like the IMF in the MI films, operates at such a high success rate because it owns and operates an all-seeing, all-knowing surveillance & intelligence AI called “The Heart”, which is much like the rogue AI called “The Entity” that the IMF is trying to track down and take back from their enemies in Dead Reckoning – Part 1.
Sure, it has some familiarity, but fans of this genre can all claim some similar content shared between the biggest franchises. Bond, Bourne, Mission: Impossible, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan. We all allow ourselves a bit of retread spy gaming if it means we get to gear up for more intrigue, globetrotting, car chases, & computer hacking alongside our beloved beautiful A-list movie stars.
However, for any film in this genre that isn’t part of a major franchise, you have to elevate & connect with what you have. Extraction had elite action sequences thanks to Sam Hargrave and a bonafide action star in Hemsworth. The Kingsman had an elite director in Vaughn, a creative organization backstory, & a deep roster of talent.
This movie has … the ingredients on the paper. A surface level appeal. Much like the overall production, Gadot seems to lack just enough intensity & grit to sell the rogue agent facade. Her stature, beauty, & natural athleticism lend to a passable action lead, but her inability to connect emotionally, either with charm, passion, or ferocity, tends to make her characters outside of Wonder Woman mostly flat, uninteresting, & lacking presence.
While the film clearly has its flaws, it somehow does have just enough watchability to give most fans of the genre something in which to grab hold. The action set pieces have plenty of bullet whizzing car chases and hand-to-hand combat to arouse the senses and a squirrel suit flight at 40,000 feet for good measure.
The performances are mostly solid as well. In fact, I would argue that, once the film shifts its focus away from team dynamics and more towards Stone’s rogue heroics, the film starts to become less fun & less interesting. Strong support from Dornan, Jing Lusi, and newcomer Alia Bhatt gives the film some much needed energy & color when needed.
Overall, Heart of Stone is a retread story that doesn’t fully rise above its familiarity. Gadot has the look & feel of an action star, but doesn’t breathe much life into her character. Rachel Stone’s lack of command, depth, & emotional range make it hard to draw the audience in, while her organization isn’t unique enough to color her surroundings. They may tease the idea of future “Stone” films, but I’m not interested.
Watch Heart of Stone If You Like
- The Old Guard
- The Mission Impossible Franchise
- The Mother
- The Gray Man
MVP of Heart of Stone
Alia Bhatt as Keya Dhawan
While RRR may have introduced her to American audiences, it’s this film and her more meatier role as elite hacker Keya Dhawan that may break out Alia Bhatt for future success. She stands toe-to-toe with Gadot & Dornan and gives the most emotional range of any character in the story.
PLAY, PAUSE, OR STOP?
If your goal is a passable 2 hours of action to fill a boring Sunday afternoon, this might do the trick. But if you’re looking for the next spy franchise to take on, you’re definitely in the wrong place.