This piece was written during the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strikes. We stand with the SAG-AFTRA. Without them, the movies and television shows we cover would not exist.
Action films led by women are still rarer than they should be, despite some improvement. Netflix’s latest original movie wants to be part of the progress. However, Heart of Stone fails to establish a distinct personality of its own amid all the shoot-outs and fistfights. It also has minor but noticeable story problems that undermine the plot.
Heart of Stone stars Gal Gadot as Rachel Stone, an IT expert at MI:6 who’s new to the field. She’s helping a team capture an elusive arms dealer. Except, she isn’t new in the field. She’s Nine of Hearts, an operative for The Charter. She was inserted into MI:6 on purpose and has to maintain her cover. Of course, bad people want to do bad things, so that becomes impossible. And of course, she is the only one who can save the world when the final showdown comes around. Isn’t that what usually happens to intelligence agents on screen? While they are racing around the world, of course. Which also happens to Stone.
As you can tell, Heart of Stone features a lot of standard storytelling for this genre, with nothing to make for a fresh or even very fun viewing experience. The cast, especially Gadot, is the best thing about the film, too.
“You just want to be the one in charge.”
The concept of an espionage network that’s independent of any government has been used on screen for a while. The Syndicate in the Mission: Impossible films and the recent series Citadel are just two examples. The Charter follows the same blueprint. The organization isn’t well fleshed out but their distinguishing feature seems to be the Heart. It’s a quantum computer that can hack into everything on the planet. Yes, everything. It creates such an accurate picture that it can predict the future.
The filmmakers do what they can to present the Heart as an impressive piece of tech. The problem is, its very nature leads to plot holes. The Charter deduces that someone is after the Heart and identifies young hacker Keya Dhawan (Alia Bhatt) as their adversary. Her backstory turning her into the villain would have made a more interesting story than what actually happens.
Warning: I am about to discuss certain big spoilers. I feel they are necessary in order to demonstrate the flaws of this story. When the MI:6 team Stone is working with finally figures out she is more skilled than she’s let on, one of them, Parker (Jamie Dornan), turns on them and is revealed to be the true Big Bad all along. Keya is working for him. And that’s the biggest plot hole: Shouldn’t the Heart have been able to predict Parker was the evil mastermind?
“Maybe in the next life.”
Parker’s motivations are similar to the villain stories we’ve all seen a million times. Really, seeing the disgruntled white guy go after revenge is just so boring when they could’ve allowed the young woman of color to be a complex villainess. But, of course, Keya realizes the error of her ways and helps take Parker down.
The audience is treated to some beautiful locations but the story should’ve had more of that glamour. Before the big reveal, there is a definite undertone of romantic possibility between Stone and Parker. The script left me feeling like the filmmakers thought this was too “typical” and by pulling that out from under the viewer, they were achieving a “big twist.” Instead, it all just ends up kind of…meh. You want to maybe see Dornan get a good lead action hero role in a better film.
That’s not what you want out of any film but especially not an action film. All the action sequences feel very b-the-book as well, too similar to those done in other films. As great as Gadot is to watch, Wonder Woman herself deserved a better story. Heart of Stone makes an effort at some interesting details but the overall effect of the flawed story is unfortunately bland.
Heart of Stone is now streaming on Netflix.