Capsule Review: Heart of Stone (2023)

With the once-promising news about the status of Wonder Woman 3 not in development after all, Gal Gadot still has a new franchise to focus on. A potential franchise starter, to be exact in Netflix’s big-budget espionage actioner, Heart of Stone. Skydance happens to be one of the production companies, famously responsible for producing Mission: Impossible movies since Ghost Protocol in 2011.

And not surprisingly, the marketing campaign leading to the release of the movie clearly wanted to position itself as a female version of Mission: Impossible with Gal Gadot playing the titular character. No, her name is not literally called Heart of Stone but Rachel Stone. The movie gets off to a promising start with a thrilling 20-minute pre-credits sequence set in the Alps (the scene where Stone jumps over the handrail before sliding down the snowy slope to grab a glow-in-the-dark parachute is worth mentioning here). The overreliance on CGI may have been present but at least Tom Harper of The Aeronauts fame and editor Mark Eckersley manage to maintain a certain sense of tactility in its action set pieces.

We learn that Rachel goes undercover as a tech agent working for MI6 with his team including Parker (Jamie Dornan), Yang (Jing Lusi) and Bailey (Paul Ready). She is actually an agent for a super-secret spy organisation known as The Charter led by Nomad (Sophie Okonedo) while Matthias Schweighöfer plays the tech wiz nicknamed “Jack of Hearts”. Rachel’s mission has something to do with stopping a hacker played by Alia Bhatt as Keya Dhawan, who is determined to steal the all-powerful MacGuffin called the Heart. And guess what, the Heart in question turns out to be an artificial intelligence device capable of hacking into any system. It sure reminds me of the Entity in the still-in-cinemas Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One. Coincidence? Well, who knows.

Being an espionage genre means double-crosses, betrayal and deception are bound to happen one way or another. Heart of Stone is no exception with the mission getting jeopardised as the movie progresses further. The story — credited to Greg Rucka, who also co-wrote Netflix’s The Old Guard and Allison Schroeder of Hidden Figures and Christopher Robin fame — sticks to the familiar storytelling beats of a spy movie. It’s all formulaic that nothing you haven’t seen before.

And yet, I’m surprised to find myself enjoying most parts of the movie throughout its 123-minute runtime. The brisk pace certainly helps with Harper wasting little time with exposition-heavy moments in favour of one action set-piece after another. The opening scene aside, the movie deserves equal mention for its nighttime car chase in Lisbon and another scene takes place in and out of an airship, complete with a freefalling moment that gives me a ’90s feel of an action movie.

Gadot is charismatic as Rachel Stone and likewise, she’s a natural when comes to physically-demanding roles from performing dangerous stunts to hand-to-hand combats. Jamie Dornan and Alia Bhatt deliver respectively decent supporting turns as Parker and Keya while Matthias Schweighöfer’s “Jack of Hearts” acquits himself well even when he spends most of the time operating indoors.

Heart of Stone is a fun-while-it-lasts kind of summer movie, boasting enough action and thrills to keep you occupied. Still, if there’s a sequel moving forward, I wish they can cut down the obvious CGI and of course, come up with a better screenplay.

Heart of Stone is currently streaming on Netflix.