Rob Reviews "Heart of Stone"
When doing my research to review Heart of Stone, I found myself tilting my head and raising an eyebrow with every click. With the director of The Aeronauts and The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death alongside the writer of Christopher Robin and Hidden Figures who co-writes with comic book legend Greg Rucka (his novelization of Batman: No Man’s Land is AMAZING) and a cast that includes Gal Gadot, Jamie Dornan, BD Wong, and Alia Bhatt, there is A LOT going on here. This is the main reason I don’t fall down that rabbit hole until AFTER I see a film; things like this would cloud my brain in a way that could impede my ability to really take everything in to evaluate the work overall.
Rachel Stone (Gadot) is an entry-level agent with MI6 working tech in the field. When an operation goes haywire on them thanks to a hacker that can even get around the best spy security measures (Bhatt), secrets are revealed in a globe-trotting mission to stop the ultimate weapon that can reveal anything about anyone that is kept electronically anywhere, anytime.
While this is not a bad film, there are a couple of things working against it before opening the Netflix app to watch it. One: this is from Tom Cruise’s Skydance Studios (put a pin in this, it will make sense in a moment… and I am still perplexed that this is only their tenth anniversary). Two: it is chock-full of chase scenes, especially in a twisting and turning downtown setting in Europe. Three: the main thing everyone is after is a computer program that if in the wrong hands could be used for global dominance. Four: there is an organization outside of normal spy agencies to take on missions that seem… impossible.
If it were not the summer of 2023 (much less in August), this might all be seen as more of “I see what you did there,” but Heart of Stone being released a day short of exactly one month after Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning, Part One may have a lot of people wondering if this was more of a Part One-Point-Five than anything else. This film does set itself apart a bit in the way the action is presented in some scenes through the eyes of Stone herself and her “co-pilot” (Matthias Schweighöfer) that is pretty cool and actually feeds into the overall plot as well as a couple of neat twists that keeps the story moving for about seventy-five percent of the film, but that last quarter seems to drag on to make sure it clears two hours. Honestly, this could have been about twenty minutes shorter and not really lost any quality or story; it actually may have tightened things up a little bit. At worst, that twenty minutes could be used to help flesh out a few of the characters a bit more to help truly understand the motivations of some of the secondary characters in order to keep the stakes high for the audience as lines are drawn and body counts rise.
That being said, let me be clear: this is not a bad film by any stretch of the imagination. Gadot is an action STAR and plays this complex character well in each and every scene that requires the different sides of Rachel Stone to come through (man, I am REALLY trying hard to step around spoilers here) alongside her MI6 teammates (Dornan, Jing Lusi, and Paul Ready), who all complement each other nicely. The visual effects didn’t knock me out of my chair, but they are serviceable without taking me out of what was going on at any given moment. I truly enjoyed my time in the theater (I love when Netflix does screenings on the big screen; it’s how I got to see The Harder They Fall for the first time), but maybe delaying this film's release until maybe the holidays to give Dead Reckoning, Part One some breathing time away from the spotlight to let Heart of Stone stand on its own would give it a better shot with a mass audience.
If I had to sum up Heart of Stone in a simple phrase, I would have to go with “popcorn movie”. This is neither a knock or high praise, and sometimes that is alright. Seeing this at home to wind down your day with some cool action and spy stuff on your couch is about right for it. I have no doubt this is the first in at least a couple more adventures featuring Rachel Stone, and I hope they can build on what is in this film to expand her story and universe.