Film Review – Heart Of Stone (2023)

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Heart Of Stone (2023) coming to Netflix 11th August starring Gal Gadot
Netflix. The revolutionaries who have helped bring out the biggest change in film and television history haven’t had the smoothest of rides in the last year or so: the pandemic, naturally, saw their subscribers go through the roof and profits soar, but in 2023, with their clamp down on password sharing, price hikes and impact on the industry at large, has seen their profile diminish and, as of last month, saw it lose reportedly $18billion of its value. And now, of course, the strikes that have decimated Hollywood, with no end in sight at the time of writing. But at least their content is good, right?

Next off the Cannon Films-esque (remember them?!) conveyor belt of original films hitting the platform this weekend is Heart of Stone, the latest big-budget “blockbuster” that will, of course, have millions of hours of watches but one that, for many, will follow the pattern of most of their recent output and be forgotten about before any water cooler moments on Monday morning.

Leading her second big vehicle for the streamer is Gal Gadot, who featured alongside Dwayne Johnson and Ryan Reynolds in Red Notice, one of – if not, the worst – such examples of their awful attempts to replicate the summer movie season on the small screen. She stars as a low-level MI6 computer analyst who is “never to leave the van” whilst on stakeout, only for her to get out and show her true colours: she’s a deep undercover agent (the titular Stone) for a secret peacekeeping unit called The Charter. Soon, her two worlds collide as their high-tech AI technology – codename The Heart – that can think, act and predict better than any human, comes under threat from a secret group of hackers who want it for their own means.

Thinking you’ve seen this somewhere before? Well, you have, not just in standard spy thrillers that have reflected the modern world of the Internet and the capabilities of technology, but more specifically, Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One, for which Heart of Stone is a pale, and quite literal, imitation. That’s unfair in some respects, given the 7th Tom Cruise mission is still in cinemas, but it’s impossible not to see the clear and obvious similarities – we can’t say it’s a rip-off totally, but it isn’t far off. Indeed, the film is a poor imitation of spy thrillers period, recycling old, tired ideas and set-pieces from countless better films and smashing them together in the hopes people won’t notice. Just like an AI-generated script would, perhaps?

There’s even halo jumps, motorcycle chases and raw fight scenes, though where others have done things for real, we get the real-person-awful-green-screen lazy, cheaper version. As such, the whole film feels dull and uninspired and while it’s fun in part, your mild enjoyment will come in a package deal with many eye rolls and a few exhaustive expressions. Gadot, currently in Wonder Woman limbo, is energetic enough to keep things watchable, as is Alia Bhatt, but neither get any chance to shine as brightly as we know then can, while Dornan provides suitably decent support alongside, but all three are better – much better – than what they are given here.

It’s ironic that a film about the impacts that AI is having on the world is being released on Netflix, one of the big pushers for the use of such technology in film and TV that has brought about the current actors and writers strikes because, in the wrong hands, all hell could break loose. For the industry’s sake, let’s put it in the right hands, shall we?

★ 1/2

Action, Crime | UK/USA, 2023 | 12 | 11th August 2023 | Netflix | Dir.Tom Harper | Jing Lusi, Jamie Dornan, Paul Ready, Alia Bhatt, Enzo Cilenti, Matthias Schweighöfer, Archie Madekwe