Heart Of Stone Review

It’s no secret that Netflix’s globetrotting new spy thriller Heart Of Stone is a full-throated attempt to kickstart a new action franchise. The production company behind it, Skydance, is responsible for every Mission: Impossible entry since 2011’s Ghost Protocol, and the film’s marketing suggests that the film's mission, should you choose to accept it, is to create a female Ethan Hunt/James Bond. And while it’s refreshing to see a new hero not taken from any pre-existing IP, it's a shame that it comes without much originality or flair.

Heart Of Stone

The film opens very much in the vein of 007. At an Alpine ski lodge and casino, we meet a quartet of MI6 agents: fieldwork rookie Rachel Stone (Gal Gadot, also on producer duties); sardonic but sweet Parker (Jamie Dornan); glamorous Yang (Jing Lusi); and Fleetwood Mac-obsessed Bailey (Paul Ready). When their plan to snatch a generic baddie goes south, it’s revealed that Stone isn’t quite the naive newbie she appears: she’s got a hidden earpiece with guy-in-the-chair Jack (Matthias Schweighöfer) feeding her instructions from an omnipotent AI risk-anticipator called the Heart. And so we discover that Stone is part of the Charter, a secret, ‘non-political’ global organisation run by Sophie Okonedo’s Nomad.

When the action is (literally) grounded in fistfights it’s gripping, but it’s difficult to be thrilled by a blatantly CG-ed skydive.

To Heart Of Stone’s credit, it does manage to keep a few tricks up its sleeve. While the first third chugs along happily as a familiar ‘undercover agent is torn between their allegiances’ thriller, twists and turns thrust the narrative into grittier territory. The threat of Alia Bhatt’s anarchic über-hacker Keya Dhawan gaining control of the Heart is also believably apocalyptic.

Heart Of Stone

But a hefty quantity of suspension of disbelief is required here. Quibbles — like Stone not having a fake name while undercover with MI6, and characters’ selective deafness when it comes to overhearing gunfire that would give the game away — shouldn’t really matter, but they reveal the instability of the film's own house of cards. When the action is (literally) grounded in fistfights it’s gripping, but it’s difficult to be thrilled by a blatantly CG-ed skydive, especially when we’ve become used to seeing Tom Cruise risk life and limb.

The real problem here is an absence of truly compelling characters, especially the lead; Gadot's role is too blandly written for her to have anything substantial to grip on to. Despite her efforts, Rachel Stone is about as generic as that name suggests. The stabs at humour are also feeble at best, with the film’s single good gag about a landline the only one to provoke some real laughter. As with the rest of the film, it’s fairly slim pickings.

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