Mission Unremarkable: Gal Gadot’s Heart of Stone Bores Even by Netflix Standards


If Heart of Stone has any distinctive visual moments, they all involve a supercomputer called the Heart. The Heart appears in the form of holographic images surrounding operator the Jack of Hearts (Matthias Schweighöfer), who moves around digital objects and zooms in on key details by waving his hands and touching objects. Yes, we’ve seen many similar depictions of supercomputers ever since Tom Cruise stared intensely at future crimes in 2002’s Minority Report and Tony Stark threw hot rod red on his suit in 2008’s Iron Man. Heck, we’ve seen Jeff Goldblum wave his shockingly large hands around cg-landscapes in apartment commercials. 

To his credit though, director Tom Harper doesn’t treat the visuals as anything groundbreaking or particularly exciting. It’s just shorthand for superspy technology. In fact, everything in Heart of Stone is superspy shorthand—a recitation of ideas and characters that we’ve seen time and again. Although rarely ever so emptily or devoid of that human touch.

Heart of Stone stars Gal Gadot as Rachel Stone, introduced here as a member of a tight-knit quartet of MI6 agents. Yet she’s soon revealed to secretly be a member of the Charter, a group of multinational spies who work for global peace. When a trusted friend betrays her with the help of a mysterious hacker called Keya (Alia Bhatt), Stone must race to stop her enemies from using the Charter’s tremendous power for evil. 

If that plot setup reads like Mad-Libs: Spy Edition, you understand what it’s like to watch Heart of Stone. Shockingly, the movie comes from a story by Greg Rucka, who co-wrote the screenplay with Allison Schroeder. Rucka is one of the best comic book scribes of the past 20 years, a multiple Eisner Award winner with defining runs on Batman and Wonder Woman. In particular, Rucka excels at telling stories like Heart of Stone, as his creator-owned works Whiteout and Queen & Country both tell exciting mysteries about female agents, stories that balance derring-do with complex character work. Rucka’s script for The Old Guard, directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood and based on a comic by him and artist Leandro Fernández covered similar ground with tension and humanity. 

It’s hard to say what exactly went wrong with Heart of Stone then, but Rucka’s uninspiring story is paired with pedestrian direction from Harper and unremarkable acting by everyone. Gone is the attentive eye for character that Harper showed in 2018’s Wild Rose. Heck, Heart of Stone doesn’t even have the forced whimsy of his last film The Aeronauts. The movie only has a sense of style in one scene in which the Charter leader played by Sophie Okonedo wears a blazer with pushed-up sleeves. After a costume change, it’s back to generic offices and “exotic” locales. 

Of course, the main draw to the film is Gal Gadot, who is shaping up to be the premiere star of the streaming era. Gadot has been deployed well before, mostly by Patty Jenkins in Wonder Woman, but also to supporting degrees in the Fast movies, all of which transform her natural blankness into an ethereal mystery. But in Heart of Stone, as in most of her films, Gadot is a walking nothing, a personified empty space for viewers to place their assumptions. If you’re not paying attention and just watching Heart of Stone in between glances from your phone or as you fold your socks, then it’s reasonable to assume that Gadot is a glamorous movie star with on-screen presence. And because Netflix is in the business of making white noise for other, more pressing tasks, that’s good enough. But that’s never really good enough for the time and sincere attention audiences want to give a movie. 

In fact, that not-really-good-enough quality extends to all of the cast. As seen in The Fall, Belfast, and Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar, Jamie Dornan can be a nuanced and surprising actor, but here he exudes even less danger than in the grandma-shocking 50 Shades movies. It’s easy to see the appeal of Bollywood star Alia Bhatt, but she gets nothing to do as a stereotypical spunky hacker in this, her American debut. 

The film’s emotional core, such as it is, involves Stone wanting the honest camaraderie she pretends to have with her MI6 team. But how do Harper and his writers show us that tight bond between the quartet? Ribbing tech guy Bailey’s (Paul Ready) love of cats and enjoyment of Fleetwood Mac. Later, the movie repeats the process when agent Yang (Jing Lusi) throws on a modern pop song and urges the others to dance.

As with every other part of Heart of Stone, the musical sequences rely on the audience’s assumptions to work. People who sing and dance together must have some sort of connection, right? You’ve seen Almost Famous and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, “So this must be the same thing,” you think as you pair those socks. 

Look, the sane among us know to just ignore Heart of Stone. It’s a nothing movie, not even worth getting upset about. But how many times have we said the same thing about other Netflix movies? It seemed like Red Notice, Gadot’s last outing with the streamer, had to be the nadir of laundry day cinema, a film adaptation of People Magazine’s Sexiest Whatever list. But somehow, the streamer’s seeming algorithm-greenlight methods keep getting lazier. 

This leads us back to the Heart, the supercomputer that Stone must protect. Repeatedly, the movie tells us how the Heart’s algorithms maintain world peace and find perfect solutions to complicated problems. Stone raises occasional objections about removing the human aspect, but those concerns all fall flat, and not just because it’s Gadot delivering the lines. Heart of Stone is a perfect algorithm movie, a collection of proven plot points and marketable names put together for content to take up space on the screen, lulling you to sleep so you forget to cancel your subscription this month. Even better, skip Heart of Stone for The Old Guard or Mission: Impossible, a thriller with actual thrills and craft, something even the most advanced computer could never create. 

The post Mission Unremarkable: Gal Gadot’s Heart of Stone Bores Even by Netflix Standards appeared first on Den of Geek.

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