Heart of Stone Review: A forgettable and bleak spy thriller
As much as Alia and Gal shine when they come onscreen, the film seems to have turned stone-hearted to its characters that, after a point
Spy thrillers can either be self-aware and use the age-old tropes of the genre or draw from the other subgenres, like action and emotional drama, to pivot from being a drag. Netflix’s latest action spy thriller Heart of Stone does try to work around the tropes, but ironically, the might just not have its heart in the right place.
Gal Gadot is Rachel Stone, an MI-6 spy in the prime of her game. Clandestinely, she is also affiliated with a secret organisation called The Charter, which is an entity that no one really bothers explaining about. Even before we wrap our heads around the idea of The Charter, Rachel and her colleagues Parker (Jamie Dornan), Theresa Yang (Jing Lusi), and Max (Bailey) are out on a globe-trotting adventure, starting from Italy, trying to capture someone called Mulvaney. It’s here that Rachel meets Keya Dhawan (Alia Bhatt), a young Indian hacker, who is trying to get into networks of the Charter, and subsequently take over The Heart, a database with the ability to hack into any system. Just like The Charter, we end up with a lot of questions about The Heart, and there are no answers whatsoever.
Director: Tom Harper
Cast: Gal Gadot, Alia Bhatt, Jamie Dornan, and others
Streaming on: Netflix
And just like your average spy thriller, Heart of Stone has its garden variety of betrayals, hidden agendas, and redemptions. But do these land well or even last long enough for us to form an invested connection to the storyline? No.
Heart of Stone has two diabolically strong women — Alia (in her Hollywood debut) and Gal — at the centre of things, but fails to use their talents to the fullest. However, points to the makers for doing away with stereotypes of female spy getups that consist of chic dressing, suave straight hair, and skin-tight rexine pants. Instead, these women are seen in costumes that are pretty much adaptable to the conditions and nature of their work. But having said that, do we really see them at work showcasing their 'spy-ness'? Again a no. Even as we get some backstory of Keya, it doesn't really convert into a factor of astonishment and fails to engage us with the storyline.
For an espionage thriller that has around 120 minutes of runtime, it is disappointing that Heart of Stone does not have memorable set pieces. Considering I am writing this review just a couple of hours after watching the film, it is overwhelmingly sad that I couldn't even recollect one sequence, which could be pointed out as a highlight of the Heart of Stone.
As much as Alia and Gal shine when they come onscreen, the film seems to have turned stone-hearted to its characters that, after a point, it does feel like we are caught in an infinite loop of changing landscapes, and flatline narrative. There is very little impact, and after a point, we don't really care as to what happens to the players, and cannot be bothered to take sides with the Charter team or the Heart team. Finally, it is we who are pushed to turn our hearts into stone...and we do it without putting up too much of a fight.