Dr Khusi Pattanayak
If Wonder Woman and James Bond had a baby, only with a better script, she would be Rachel Stone.
Heart of Stone (English, 2023) is a spy thriller that uses all the tropes of the espionage genre to create a watchable (but forgettable) offering.
Heart of Stone relies on the familiar premise of saving the planet from evil forces who are hell bent on destroying the world for personal benefits. We have a secret agent, infiltrating another specialized security team, to ensure that a certain high intelligence computer is not abused by the malevolent power.
This road to restoration of peace is littered with ethical questions related to AI and human knowledge; about finding a balance between statistical information and human hunch. The film also moves beyond the contemporary concerns and probes in to darker moral spectrum that has haunted humanity since the advent of time – greed, manipulation, vengeance, loyalty.
Heart of Stone is the Hollywood version of Abbas–Mustan movies. It has innumerable plot twists and countless deception. On top of it, the film has a luxurious budget and hence the audience is flown to every possible part of the world for no rhyme or reason (or maybe there is one, but too irrelevant).
Gal Gadot carries her role with panache. Yet nothing about her character connects with you in anyway. She has the most yawn-worthy backstory. In fact, the clumsy script and the shoddy narrative does not help anyone.
Most of the actors, Jamie Dornan, Jing Lusi, Sophie Okonedo (as Heart of Stone‘s version of Madam M), Alia Bhatt, happily move in and out of the frame because they received their pay checks. They have nothing much to contribute other than reconfirming to the stereotypes.
The inclusion of non-white actors appears to be more of a politically correct statement, probably an afterthought to make the movie more inclusive. Because the characters’ racial identity has no relationship with the script as such.
For example, the Indian Keya Dhawan could be easily replaced by someone from Zimbabwe or Norway (albeit with name change) and it would still not make any difference to the script in anyway.
Alia Bhatt’s Hollywood debut is not bad but could have been better. Though limited, Bhatt has her moments in the movie and she utilises it well. Her stuck-in-a-moving-vehicle frames screamed of déjà vu; especially if you have seen Highway (2014). But I presume the similarity is sheer coincidence.
Despite relying solely on action sequences to carry forward the narrative they remain rather commonplace; nothing that has not been explored before. Fortunately, George Steel’s camera work saves the movie from hitting rock bottom.
It is obvious that Heart of Stone will continue as a series. So, if you are a spy movie fan, and do not have any plans for the weekend, do watch Heart of Stone. It is streaming on Netflix.
(The author is an internationally published writer & corporate communication specialist. Views are personal)