“Heart of Stone is Netflix's attempt at Mission: Impossible, but fails to reach the same heights.”
- Fast-paced action sequences
- Embraces Gadot as a skilled action star
- Too many similarities to Mission: Impossible
- Most of the characters are forgettable
- Gadot still comes across as bland
Paramount has Ethan Hunt, Amazon (formerly MGM) has James Bond, and Universal has Jason Bourne. Gal Gadot wants Rachel Stone to be her version of these iconic characters and become Netflix’s solution to a female-driven action franchise with Heart of Stone. Gadot plays Rachel Stone, a clumsy, inexperienced tech wizard working for an elite MI6 team. Their leader is Parker (Jamie Dornan), a confident agent who takes a keen interest in Stone as the two slowly develop feelings for one another.
Unbeknownst to the team, Stone is a double agent for the Charter, a secret international spy agency. When her team isn’t around, Stone is a first-class agent with excellent combat skills, sheer intelligence, and superior athleticism. Stone reports to her tough-minded boss at the Charter, Nomad (Sophie Okonedo), and works alongside an elite and witty technician, Jack of Hearts (the always-funny Matthias Schweighöfer).
Every spy has an enemy, and Stone’s foe is Keya Dhawan (Alia Bhatt in her first American film release), a gifted hacker intent on avenging the death of her parents. Keya wants to shift the global power dynamics by acquiring “The Heart,” an all-powerful AI capable of tracking any person or organization’s presence and using that information to predict future behavior and decisions. Keya’s presence threatens Stone’s cover, forcing the elite agent to choose between saving her team or following the Charter’s orders and protecting The Heart.
Directed by Tom Harper (The Aeronauts), Heart of Stone makes a concerted effort to play against tropes and champion a female action hero like Gadot with a more humanistic, grounded approach. The film opens with a fun sequence in the Alps, full of witty banter and solid action. However, Heart of Stone emphasizes action over plot and character development, so much so that The Heart gets more mentions than most of the supporting cast. That’s unfortunate because Bhatt and Schweighöfer steal every scene they’re in.
It’s difficult to watch Heart of Stone and not think of the Mission: Impossible franchise. Heart of Stone and the last four Mission: Impossible films are produced by Skydance, so there were bound to be similarities. The recent Mission: Impossible entries have benefited from their strong commitment to stunt work and shooting on location. From the Burj Khalifa climb in Ghost Protocol to the motorcycle jump in Dead Reckoning Part I, the Mission: Impossible franchise is the gold standard in stunt work.
No film can ever outdo Mission: Impossible since there is only one Tom Cruise (for now; AI may make an army out of him). Yet, Heart of Stone gives an admirable effort to live up to its fellow Skydance teammate. The Lisbon car chase is the best sequence in the film, followed by the elaborate skydiving jump during the Locker sequence. Though she could not jump out of a plane, Gadot completed the hand-to-hand combat sequences, which are well choreographed.
Unfortunately, what starts as an inspiration turns to imitation as Heart of Stone shamelessly emulates stunts and storylines from the Mission: Impossible franchise. The Locker sequence is an inferior version of the halo jump in Fallout while the Lisbon chase is not as effective as the Rome chase in Dead Reckoning Part I. AI as a threat against humanity, a protagonist who chooses to protect people over duty, and spies who work outside the government are all Mission: Impossible staples. Even the biggest narrative swerve in Heart of Stone is the same plot twist from 1996’s Mission: Impossible. To its detriment, Heart of Stone tries too hard to be Mission: Impossible instead of being its own unique action movie.
Unlike Red Notice, which used too much CGI for its own good, Heart of Stone lets Gadot try to be an action heroine, allowing the former dancer to showcase her physicality in each combat scene and chase sequence. Ever since the success of Wonder Woman, Gadot has been a star, headlining various projects notable and infamous (who can forget that cringy Imagine viral video from the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic?).
But is Gadot an actual movie star? Does she have any memorable or standout performances that fans can point to outside of Diana Prince/Wonder Woman? Unlike Gadot’s contemporaries, such as Margot Robbie and Emma Stone, who have multiple recognizable roles, Gadot tends to play forgettable characters.
Does anyone remember who she played in Red Notice, the most popular Netflix film (English)? I’d bet a significant amount of money the majority of those who watched Red Notice cannot remember the name of Gadot’s character.* What about Death on the Nile? Keeping up with the Joneses? Triple 9? All forgettable performances. Her most notable role outside of Wonder Woman is Gisele Yashar in The Fast Saga, a franchise she hadn’t appeared in since 2013 before making a cameo in Fast X. Gadot can be a good action star, and proved it with her performance in Wonder Woman. Nevertheless, she’s struggled to capture that same magic in other roles, and Heart of Stone doesn’t help her out. It’s as generic as they come and only showcases Gadot’s bland and forgettable screen presence.
Through no fault of their own because of the SAG-AFTRA and writer’s strikes, Heart of Stone would have benefited from promotion from the stars in real-time, not pre-taped interviews. However, the film will most likely debut at the top of the charts once it arrives on Netflix. Will Heart of Stone have staying power like Extraction, the streamer’s most successful action franchise? Maybe, because like Extraction, Heart of Stone is a formulaic action thriller with only a few exciting sequences.
It doesn’t reinvent the genre, and that’s OK if you don’t mind wasting your time when you can watch Dead Reckoning Part 1 again. But if Netflix wants Heart of Stone to be a franchise, it will need to bring more originality to the inevitable sequel, Heart of Stone 2: Die Hearter.
Heart of Stone is now streaming on Netflix.
*By the way, Gadot’s character in Red Notice is named Sarah Black, also known as “The Bishop.” Keep your money.
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