Tuesday 15 August 2023

REVIEW: Heart of Stone (2023) Starring Gal Gadot

Review by Jon Donnis
"Heart of Stone," directed by Tom Harper and written by Greg Rucka and Allison Schroeder, is a 2023 American spy action thriller that attempts to captivate with its espionage intrigue and action-packed sequences. Distributed by Netflix, this film follows the footsteps of classic spy franchises like James Bond and Mission Impossible, while giving it a fresh twist by placing the always entertaining Gal Gadot in the lead role as Rachel Stone, a skilled operative on a mission that blurs the line between loyalty and revenge.

The film opens in the stunning Italian Alps, where an MI6 team embarks on a high-stakes operation to extract a potential asset. The plot takes unexpected turns as Stone, portrayed convincingly by Gal Gadot, reveals her true affiliations as a member of Charter, a covert organization with its own secrets and agendas. This revelation sets the stage for a series of thrilling encounters that lead the audience on a roller-coaster ride of espionage and danger.

The casting choices bring depth and charisma to the characters. Jamie Dornan's portrayal of Parker, a double agent with a personal vendetta, adds layers to the narrative, while Alia Bhatt shines as Keya Dhawan, a young savant hacker entangled in the web of espionage. The ensemble cast, including Sophie Okonedo, Jing Lusi, and more, each contribute to the film's dynamic energy.

"Heart of Stone" is not without its flaws, however. While the narrative successfully blends elements of traditional spy thrillers with a modern twist, there are instances where the plot feels somewhat convoluted. The film could have benefited from a tighter focus on character motivations and development, particularly in the case of Parker's backstory and his motivation for revenge.

The action sequences are undeniably a highlight of the film. From the intense ski lodge showdown to the high-stakes showdowns involving the Heart (the core of the AI system used by the Charter to guide their operations), the film keeps viewers at the edge of their seats. Tom Harper's direction skilfully maintains a fast pace and a visually engaging atmosphere.

Comparisons to James Bond are inevitable, given the genre and themes. "Heart of Stone" borrows the charm of the classic spy films while embracing a more modern sensibility, empowered by Gal Gadot's strong presence as the lead, and proof once again that a film can have a strong female lead, without the need for it to "go woke". The film's espionage elements, combined with the underlying themes of trust and betrayal, contribute to its overall appeal.

The Good
Some great action scenes, all very Bond-esque, the gadgets, the overall feel of the film is fantastic.

Gadot once again proving she is the number one female action star in the world right now.

The Bad
The film lacks originality, you won't necessarily see anything new. At just over 2 hours it is way too long, if this film was 90 minutes, it would be almost nonstop action, which I kind of like.

"Heart of Stone" is an action-packed thrill ride that combines classic spy tropes with a fresh perspective. While it doesn't fully escape some genre clichés and occasional narrative confusion, its strong cast, gripping action sequences, and the charismatic Gal Gadot make it a worthwhile watch. With a bit more refinement in storytelling, it could have achieved an even higher rating. Nonetheless, for fans of spy thrillers looking for an adrenaline rush, "Heart of Stone" offers an entertaining adventure that holds its own in the genre.

I score Heart of Stone a very decent 7/10