Saturday, April 13, 2024

“HEART OF STONE”

THE STORY – Rachel Stone is an intelligence operative, the only woman who stands between her powerful global peacekeeping organization and the loss of its most valuable — and dangerous — asset.

THE CAST – Gal Gadot, Jamie Dornan, Alia Bhatt, Sophie Okonedo & Matthias Schweighöfer

THE TEAM – Tom Harper (Director), Greg Rucka & Allison Schroeder (Writers)

THE RUNNING TIME – 123 Minutes


Regarding action films that center around a spy or secret intelligence, there are specific beats by which an audience member expects to be fully engaged. There’s the initial failed mission where we met our hero, the moral dilemma between the primary mission and our hero’s consciousness, the occasional twist, and fun action set pieces in between. General audiences have seen enough spy-action films. There is a specific formula that usually tends almost always to work.

This exact formula is used in the Netflix original “Heart of Stone,” which follows Rachel Stone (Gal Gadot), an undercover agent who works for an international agency. However, this agency relies on an advanced technology known as The Heart that calculates all possible outcomes in order to give agents the best chance of survival and a completed mission. It is all based on statistics, probably, and odds. But, unlike her fellow agents, Stone doesn’t use The Heart to detect her every move, even if it states that her odds of survival decrease as a result. She sees this technology as a helpful tool but not the determining factor when it comes to her work. But, when a young hacker (Alia Bhatt) threatens the security of The Heart, Stone is placed on a mission to find her and ensure that the technology stays out of the wrong hands.

This basic plotline may seem identical to the many spy and action films because it is. Essentially, for better and for worse, “Heart of Stone” is another formulaic spy-action film. The film thrives on getting to its action set pieces, of which there are several throughout the two-hour movie. But, unfortunately, the only plot between the set pieces is exposition. For the film to be compelling, the audience must learn about The Heart, the organization, and the danger that can come from AI technology being placed in the wrong hands — and, not to mention, get to know the characters who inhabit this film itself. But, director Tom Harper hopes that his audience has already seen enough spy-action films to understand the risk and character types. Therefore, more time is dedicated to the action and less to the characters, which makes the emotional connection between them less engaging.

Fortunately, the action set pieces are the most engaging part of the film. There is every action-movie element present within “Heart of Stone,” from air stunts to bike and car stunts, to hand-on-hand combat (and that’s just in the opening set piece); audiences will be engaged by any style of action they favor because every single type is present. And, the stunt work is overall genuinely appealing. Unfortunately, the visual effects don’t support some of this solid work, especially the aerial elements where the characters are seen free or sky-diving, taking the audience out of the event itself. But, when the stunt work is grounded and adequately lit, the set pieces can be effective.

Even though “Heart of Stone” follows the basic formula, which can result in a passable spy movie, there is simply too much going on. There are too many twists, plotlines, and turns with insufficient time spent with the characters to care about allegiances or character progression. This is the film’s biggest fault: if you don’t spend enough time getting to know the character and therefore understand their values, you won’t feel betrayed or shocked when a twist does occur. At some points, it seems like the screenplay of “Heart of Stone” was generated from a computer to make a spy-action film, which is pretty ironic since the film’s whole premise is about how damaging AI can be if it falls into the wrong hands. Towards the end, Netflix seems too busy setting up a potential sequel instead of driving home our lead’s or the film’s main objective making for an, at times, entertaining but imperfect movie.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - The overall plot is a comforting source of familiarity and thrilling for action/spy fans, highlighted by an impressive score. Some of the visual effects can be entertaining.

THE BAD - The film does not earn its runtime and, as a result, drags. Several forgetful plotlines distract from the characters, making the film's emotional cord challenging to engage with.

THE OSCARS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 5/10

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Lauren LaMagna
Lauren LaMagnahttps://nextbestpicture.com
Assistant arts editor at Daily Collegian. Film & TV copy editor.

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<b>THE GOOD - </b>The overall plot is a comforting source of familiarity and thrilling for action/spy fans, highlighted by an impressive score. Some of the visual effects can be entertaining.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>The film does not earn its runtime and, as a result, drags. Several forgetful plotlines distract from the characters, making the film's emotional cord challenging to engage with.<br><br> <b>THE OSCARS - </b>None <br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>5/10<br><br>"HEART OF STONE"