Heart of Stone? At first glance one would assume this film to be about an emotionless character that maybe turns it around in the end? Someone with quite literally, a heart of stone. Well that's not exactly the case here for Netflix's latest spy action film, Heart of Stone, where Gal Gadot stars as Rachel Stone, a top-secret agent for the mysterious Charter organization.
That's right. The movie title is just referencing Stone's heart.
Or is it??
At the center of the film is the technology that powers the Charter in its quest for saving as many lives as possible across the globe. A special program called the Heart that is able to model any sort of outcome. The likelihood of someone becoming a murderer, or the chance of success in a top secret mission. The Heart is able to do this by hacking into anything it could possibly want to filter through trillions of data points, resulting in the closest thing humanly possible to perfect intelligence.
So we've got the Heart, and we've got Stone. And we've got Stone working for the organization that possesses the Heart? But Stone also has her own heart which the movie hammers home, is full of empathy and values one would not expect with a cold secret agent that has to follow the directions of the Heart (the machine) to save lives.
Basically what I'm getting at here is that the powers that be just threw darts at a wall and hit the words Heart of Stone because the title is poppycock. It makes no sense.
What's the story though? Well, our protagonist Stone is as I mentioned a top secret agent working for the secret organization known as the Charter. She's planted herself as an undercover operative in an MI6 team, working with Parker (Jamie Dornan), Yang (Jing Lusi), and Bailey (Paul Ready). Her co-workers if you will, have only heard rumors about the Charter, believing it to be a much more nefarious organization. When the team's initial mission to capture a renowned arms dealer, Mulvaney (Enzo Cilenti), goes sideways, Stone is able to sneak behind her team and enable the power of the Charter, the Heart, through her tech-savvy sidekick Jack of Hearts (Matthias Schweighöfer). Such is the way of the Charter. To be readily available in case government agencies fail, and someone needs to step in to save as many lives as possible.
Things get complicated when Stone is hung up on the appearance of a 22 year old girl that hacks their comms during this mission, introducing a new player at the card table, Kheya Dhawan (Alia Bhatt). One thing leads to another and suddenly Stone finds herself fighting to keep the Heart in the hands of the Charter as Dhawan and additional forces attempt to take it for their own.
The plot overall is very straightforward, albeit with some minor twists and betrayals. It's an all-too-common occurrence for spy movies but certainly not an unwelcome theme. Speaking of all-too-common occurrences, Heart of Stone crams in just about every spy film trope, resulting in a lot of "you gotta be kidding me" moments.
Stone twisting her ankle and urging her team to go ahead just so she can turn into Wonder Woman and save the day without them knowing. The big bad henchman comes into a room, with a gun, but instead opts for beating the living shit out of Yang only to get his ass kicked by Stone because why not. Of course there's always the classic Mission Impossible-esque pieces like running across an exploding blimp, flying through the air without a parachute, some fun snowmobiling/snow-biking, but these are fairly welcome as exhilarating moments. However, some of these other aforementioned moments are dull, mundane, and detract from the final product.
Now I understand that Stone is a member of the Charter and thus should be portrayed as a cut above these MI6 chumps. However, the depiction of Yang and Bailey as this carefree buffoons is painstakingly hard to watch. Stone driving the getaway van to escape the previously mentioned big bad henchman in a wannabe Ryan Gosling Drive jacket resulting in Bailey (the MI6 driving specialist) screaming his head off is distracting. Lowering the skill of these MI6 agents doesn't actually make the Charter, and Stone for that matter, look any more elite but instead brings them down as well.
I thought the film was decent and I enjoyed Gadot being at the centerpiece of a film like this! She has a great action presence and I wouldn't mind seeing more of this instead of another Gray Man, Red Notice, or pretty much any of the previous Netflix original spy films. This film felt slightly more methodical than most other Netflix action films and I think a good chunk of that is due to Tom Harper's direction. While there are some incredibly stupid moments, like having the Heart be able to hack into anything and then every time the Charter needs access to something they can't get in, the story kept me interested enough to ignore it. The score was good too, elevating most of the action sequences.
But of course I have to mention the lighting for these pieces. The movie starts out with a gorgeous overview of an Italian ski resort nestled on the top of a mountain. It's a beautiful set-up, and something I really needed more of. But of course once the action gets going and Parker is about to be trapped by Mulvaney's men, the lights go out. Not just for the bad guys, but also the viewer. This and a later action set in a hotel room in Lisbon are so poorly lit I was adjusting my positioning like an idiot. Assuming some other angle will get me a better view of the movie. I'm not sure what the reasoning is behind this "trend" in recent films but lighting is a serious issue and you can have dark, moody action and still have your audience able to see what the hell is happening.
Lucky for me, Urban Family Brewing saw this movie coming a mile away and created the Heart of Stone Sour. How serendipitous!
Urban Family is one of my favorite local breweries here in Seattle. They have a great indoor and outdoor space along with a lineup of beers that really pushes me out of my comfort zone. That's mostly because they have such great sours I have to try them. Let the record reflect that I have consistently said I am not a "sour person" but Urban Family always brings me back. The Heart of Stone is another addition to the list of sours I've loved from this brewery. It has a delicious peach aroma to it that pours into its taste, along with a welcome dryness that is refreshing. Even at north of 7% ABV it has a light body, taste, and is easily drinkable. One of my biggest concerns with sours is related to the outright acidity of the beer. I'm not out here trying to get heartburn with one sip of battery acid, you know? But I found Urban Family's Heart of Stone to be a very well balanced acidic sour that was a delightful experience.
I will also say, the name of this beer makes more sense than the title of the movie.