‘Heart of Stone’ movie review: Gal Gadot shines in a forgettable spy film; Alia Bhatt deserved more

The brilliantly-shot action set pieces aside, ‘Heart of Stone’ will disappear into the abyss as yet another forgettable high-budget espionage thriller that splurges on the genre’s opulence

Updated - August 13, 2023 12:13 pm IST

Published - August 11, 2023 03:27 pm IST

Gal Gadot and Alia Bhatt in ‘Heart of Stone’

Gal Gadot and Alia Bhatt in ‘Heart of Stone’ | Photo Credit: Netflix

Within a short span of time, its interesting that we have had three Indian stars show what they can do in Hollywood — Dhanush (The Gray Man), Priyanka Chopra (Citadel), and now, Alia Bhatt (Heart of Stone) — and how utterly misfortunate is it that all of them have starred in rather underwhelming spy action titles, that also seem quite similar? There must be an abyss in the space-time fabric into which forgettable high-budget espionage thrillers — that splurge on the genre’s opulence more than on imagination — disappear. A reminder that we were gifted with Ghosted this year as well.

Heart of Stone follows the suit to the T; it’s a globe-trotting thriller, involves a powerful but covert spy organisation, the lead star is introduced with a big action set piece at an exotic location, he or she operates with a team of diverse people with varied skills, there’s sexual tension between two of them, secrets are kept and mates are betrayed, there are no real stakes and the hero always finds a way….you know the drill.

Heart of Stone (English)
Director: Tom Harper
Cast: Gal Gadot, Jamie Dornan, Alia Bhatt, Sophie Okonedo, Matthias Schweighöfer
Runtime: 125 minutes
Storyline: An MI6 member, who is also a secret agent of a mythical organisation, goes up against evil forces and a talented Indian hacker from hijacking a quantum computer that could change the fate of the planet

Rachel Stone (Gal Gadot), a member of the mythical organisation called The Charter, has to keep her identity safe from her MI6 team — Parker (Jamie Dornan), Theresa Yang (Jing Lusi), and Max Bailey (Paul Ready) — who are on a mission in Italy to capture a man named Mulvaney. Unexpectedly, she meets a mysterious Indian hacker named Keya Dhawan (Alia Bhatt) who hacks into the military-grade comms of the MI6 and the Charter. Soon enough, Stone realises that there’s a larger threat looming around, one that aims to hijack The Heart, a quantum computer used by Charter that can hack into anything and gives almost near-perfect predictions and recourses. Stone a.k.a Nine of Hearts, with the help of the Jack of Hearts (Matthias Schweighöfer), needs to prevent the Heart from falling into the wrong hands.

See it as MI: 7 meets Person of Interest meets Citadel? Heart of Stone is more, thankfully, and that’s its biggest boon; the supercomputer at the centre isn’t just any spy-movie MacGuffin but a timely re-imagination of the possibilities of the world we all might soon inhabit. At a pivotal point, Nomad (Sophie Okonedo), Charter’s M-like figure, and Stone debate the moral axes of following the orders of a machine than a human, and you can’t but feel helplessly stuck in the middle.

Yet, everything seems contrived, like the fillers that bridge the action sequences; this makes the 120-minute runtime seem quicker and the movie moves at breakneck pace.

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But Heart of Stone does make an impression with its set pieces, from the very first scene that involves a high-speed chase on an icy hill using three modes of transport to the one set at a house in Lisbon. The one episode that sticks out as a sore spot, unfortunately, has Alia throwing one clichéd dialogue after the other. To portray her as a young adult single-minded on revenge, Keya is written as a 22-year-old; while Alia charms her way into the film and does her best to accentuate the pale shade that has been given to her shallow character (she’s nothing but a desi teen Killmonger), the dialogues and the delivery keeps throwing you off. The actor certainly deserved a better English-language debut.

If there’s anything that anchors this otherwise forgettable film, it’s Gadot’s earnest performance that comes through during a few of Stone’s vulnerable moments. Yet, you can’t care much for a character that is ridiculously armed with plot armour, faces no real stakes, has an archaic back story, and possesses every type of skill possible to tackle any situation.

It’s also evident that this may not be Gadot’s last rodeo as Stone, and we can expect more from both the actor and the character. But as far as Heart of Stone is concerned, it flutters but with the faintest of heartbeats.

Heart of Stone is currently streaming on Netflix

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