Monday, June 17, 2024
movies

Heart of stone(2023) movie reviews

Envisioned as the inaugural installment of a spy saga starring Gal Gadot, reminiscent of the likes of “Mission: Impossible” or the James Bond series, “Heart of Stone” by Tom Harper represents the cinematic equivalent of chasing after “virality.” It aspires to ignite widespread fascination, yet ends up as an excessively calculated mishmash of superior films, devoid of any shred of original thought. It populates its narrative with stock characters and breathes life into them through uninspired filmmaking.

In the role of Rachel Stone, Gadot embodies a member of a clandestine peacekeeping entity known as the Charter, who assumes the identity of a novice MI6 technology agent while undercover. Her duties propel her, along with the unfolding story, across the globe — from the Alpine peaks to London, Lisbon, Senegal, and finally Iceland. However, these locations are captured in an utterly mundane and lackluster manner.

Sophie Okonedo’s portrayal of her boss, Nomad, lacks vitality, and her recruitment of Stone at the age of twenty remains shrouded in mystery. The film seems disinterested in shedding light on Stone’s prior training or the circumstances of her recruitment.

Matthias Schweighöfer, a familiar face from Netflix, takes on the role of “Jack of Hearts,” Rachel’s technological aide, perpetually connected to a supercomputer called The Heart. This sophisticated tool empowers him to harness surveillance data in support of Rachel’s missions, with visualized data manipulated at his fingertips. This concept, while initially intriguing, echoes a shallower imitation of a concept once vividly portrayed by Tom Cruise’s character in “Minority Report.”

The Charter’s mission is painstakingly elaborated upon through dialogue laden with exposition. A significant portion of the characters’ discourse consists of try-hard witticisms, melodramatic soliloquies, or expository monologues. While Paul Ready and Jing Lusi — embodying Stone’s teammates Bailey and Yang, respectively — excel despite their poorly developed roles, they are regrettably not afforded ample screen time to fully flesh out their characters.

Jamie Dornan’s interpretation of teammate Parker draws parallels to a subdued version of Colin Farrell’s persona in “Daredevil.” This proves unfortunate, as Parker’s multifaceted role warrants a portrayal infused with heightened intensity. Similarly, Alia Bhatt, portraying hacker Keya, remains trapped within a web of clichéd character traits. Only Jon Kortajarena, a model turned actor, seems to grasp the requirements of his antagonistic character, sporting a bleach-blond mane and a stylishly unconventional ensemble.

This disappointment feels amplified when considering the involvement of co-screenwriter Greg Rucka, whose transformation of his graphic novel “The Old Guard” into a screenplay boasted an ensemble-driven atmosphere teeming with fully realized and intricately developed characters. The guidance of director Gina Prince-Bythewood, renowned for her prowess in directing actors and orchestrating dynamic action sequences, further elevated that project.

However, such acclaim does not extend to Harper, who struggles to properly frame or illuminate his actors. This shortcoming becomes particularly apparent during chaotic fight scenes, which often appear choppy and murky. In terms of action sequences, much of “Heart of Stone” seems to borrow heavily from other, superior films. The opening scene set in the Alps draws inspiration from various Bond movies, while several aerial stunts evoke faint echoes of a budget rendition of “Mission: Impossible.” Additionally, a certain sequence bears an uncanny resemblance to the climactic dirigible scene from “The Rocketeer,” albeit with CGI-induced flames that pale in comparison to the effects in the vastly superior and more enjoyable 1991 film.

Regrettably, the lackluster filmmaking fails to accentuate Gadot’s capabilities. While her physical prowess is evident, her ability to convey emotion remains confined to a singular, unremarkable facial expression. This drawback might have been mitigated if her combat sequences were captured in a manner that showcased her agility and strength. However, Harper’s coverage lacks coherence, revealing his struggle to capture the essence of a cinematic star.

Thematically, the movie stumbles as well. The narrative flippantly introduces concepts like “determinism” without fully exploring the impact of this philosophy on the characters’ decisions. Similarly, the movie broaches the use of an algorithm within The Heart to “maximize lives saved,” yet fails to deeply delve into the ethical implications. Rachel engages in lengthy discussions with adversaries regarding the ethical use of this power, yet curiously avoids questioning the Charter’s own brand of interventionism. The film overlooks the parallel between the institution’s embrace of mass surveillance and the tenets of totalitarianism.

Even when confronted with damning revelations about the Charter’s history, Rachel — and by extension, the film itself — sidesteps the weighty implications of imperfection. The script neatly attributes any shortcomings to the actions of a single leader, absolving the institution’s very foundation or mechanisms from blame.

Ultimately, “Heart of Stone” hastily resolves its moral quandaries by dispatching numerous characters and setting the stage for Rachel’s collaboration with a fresh ensemble. In an era dominated by intellectual properties, sequels, and franchise expansion, this approach appears almost inevitable. Simultaneously, the prevalence of big data further underscores the film’s objective, encapsulating a soulless production driven by the aspiration to inaugurate a new, female-led franchise, albeit one that paradoxically supports the tenets of a surveillance-oriented state

On Netflix now. 

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