When we meet Rachel Stone (Gal Gadot), she appears to be a junior MI6 agent with a flair for tech rather than field work. While her MI6 colleagues Parker (Jamie Dornan), Yang (Jing Lusi) and Bailey (Paul Ready) do all the fun and dangerous stuff, she handles comms and hacking in the back of a van. Rachel also seems a bit detached: when an operation goes wrong and the team debriefs over fish and chips, she heads home before even finishing her beer.
If this role sounds a tad meek for Gal Gadot, the ass-kicking star of Wonder Woman, that’s because it is. Early on, in the first of many well-executed twists, we learn that Rachel is actually a member of a covert organisation known as The Charter. Because they control an incredibly sophisticated piece of AI called “The Heart”, essentially the world’s best skeleton key, they can access anything, keep tabs on everyone and even predict the future. Collectively, The Charter wield so much power that they’re arguably playing God, which is perhaps why mysterious hacker Keya Dhawan (Alia Bhatt) appears to be goading them. But, as Rachel is reminded by her formidable boss Nomad (Sophie Okonedo), The Charter’s only aim is to maximise life saves and minimise human suffering.
It would be a shame to say too much more, because Heart Of Stone really does pull off a lot of twists and turns that you won’t see coming. Director Tom Harper, whose previous credits include Peaky Blinders and the excellent British musical film Wild Rose, also delivers some seriously impressive action sequences. If Rachel isn’t ripping round corners on a motorbike in Iceland, she’s leaping bat-like out of a plane high above the Sahara desert. This is an expensive-looking film that careers from London to Lisbon and the Italian Alps in pursuit of barely believable but thoroughly enjoyable thrills and spills. Gadot, who also produced the film, throws herself in with gusto.
There is so much going on, in fact, that it’s probably wise that screenwriters Greg Rucka (The Old Guard) and Allison Schroeder (Hidden Figures) keep the backstory limited. Sadly, their script is also littered with basic psychology familiar from countless other action thrillers. One character will go to extreme lengths to avenge the death of their parents; another is a former teenage rebel who only ever wanted to belong. It’s probably best not to interrogate anyone’s motivations too closely. After all, this is a film with a title that only sort of makes sense when you think about what “Heart” and “Stone” signify in its narrative universe.
Thankfully, if you can suspend your disbelief, Heart Of Stone is plenty of fun and far slicker than a lot of recent Netflix content. It almost goes without saying that the ending leaves room for a potential franchise. And after two hours of near-constant japes and scrapes, you’d need a heart of stone – or at least a high entertainment threshold – not to think “Oh go on then, why the hell not?”
- Director: Tom Harper
- Starring: Gal Gadot, Jing Lusi, Jamie Dornan
- Release date: August 11 (on Netflix)
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