In January 2021, the entertainment landscape was buzzing with excitement as Wonder Woman 1984 had just been released simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max. The anticipation for the Snyder Cut of Justice League was building, and Netflix had announced their high-profile action film, Red Notice, for later in the year.
Gal Gadot, known for her role as Wonder Woman, was riding high on her success during this time, and Netflix was quick to capitalize on her popularity by securing the global distribution rights for the spy thriller, Heart of Stone. Gadot was not only set to star in the film but also produce it under her production banner, Pilot Wave.
Fast forward to the summer of 2023, and the landscape has shifted. Red Notice received mixed reviews, and the Wonder Woman franchise’s future is uncertain. Amidst this backdrop, Netflix is banking on Heart of Stone to revitalize Gadot’s action star status and offer her a fresh avenue beyond her iconic role.
From a theoretical standpoint, Heart of Stone boasts all the elements necessary for a successful action film. Developed by Skydance Media, the studio behind successful franchises like Mission: Impossible and Top Gun, the film was penned by prolific comic book writer Greg Rucka, who previously collaborated with Netflix on the adaptation of his graphic novel, The Old Guard.
Gadot leads a talented cast that includes Jamie Dornan and Matthias Schweighofer, both familiar faces in the action genre. The ingredients for success are certainly present.
However, the film’s premise and execution have raised questions. Some argue that the storyline, characters, and secret organization elements tread dangerously close to the territory of another Mission: Impossible iteration. The plot summary reads like a variation of the recent Mission: Impossible film, Dead Reckoning – Part 1.
The story follows international intelligence agent Rachel Stone as she embarks on a perilous mission to safeguard a powerful intelligence-gathering superweapon known as “The Heart.” Tasked by a shadowy global peacekeeping agency called The Charter, Stone must ensure that the object doesn’t fall into enemy hands.
While the familiarity of elements in the spy genre is not uncommon, Heart of Stone seems to echo certain themes and concepts seen in other franchises. The Charter’s all-seeing surveillance AI, “The Heart,” bears resemblance to the rogue AI “The Entity” from Dead Reckoning – Part 1, raising concerns about originality.
However, audiences often accept some level of overlap between major franchises such as James Bond, Jason Bourne, and Mission: Impossible. The allure of espionage, intrigue, globetrotting, and action-packed sequences typically overrides concerns of familiarity.
For standalone films like Heart of Stone, the key lies in elevating the formula and creating a unique identity. Comparable films like Extraction succeeded by offering top-tier action sequences and a charismatic lead in Chris Hemsworth. The Kingsman franchise thrived due to its creative storytelling, direction, and distinct organizational backdrop.
In the case of Heart of Stone, while the paper ingredients seem promising, the execution falls somewhat short. Gadot’s natural athleticism and presence make her a suitable action lead, but her emotional connection to the character feels lacking. This emotional gap affects the character’s depth, charm, and ferocity, making her somewhat flat and less engaging.
Despite these flaws, the film manages to offer a degree of watchability for genre enthusiasts. The action sequences, including bullet-filled car chases and hand-to-hand combat, deliver the expected thrills. Notably, a squirrel suit flight at 40,000 feet adds an extra layer of excitement.
The performances in Heart of Stone are generally solid, with Jamie Dornan, Jing Lusi, and newcomer Alia Bhatt providing energy and depth to the narrative. Interestingly, the film loses some of its fun and intrigue when it shifts focus away from team dynamics to Stone’s individual heroics.
In conclusion, Heart of Stone treads familiar ground in the action-spy genre without fully transcending its conventional elements. Gadot’s portrayal of Rachel Stone lacks the commanding presence needed for a rogue agent, and the organization’s premise doesn’t stand out.
While the film hints at potential sequels, it’s difficult to muster excitement without more engaging character development. Nonetheless, for enthusiasts of the genre, Heart of Stone offers an assortment of action-packed moments and solid performances to make it a watchable entry in the spy thriller category.