‘Heart of Stone’ Review: Mission Improbable

Gal Gadot plays an international superspy who teams up with an all-powerful computer in this ludicrous and derivative Netflix espionage thriller.

By Calum Marsh

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In the early going, “Heart of Stone” seems like a pretty routine action thriller about spies. Gal Gadot stars as Rachel Stone, a rookie hacker for an MI6 unit; when we meet her in the movie’s opening sequence, she’s in the middle of a covert mission to ensnare an arms dealer in the Italian Alps, ferrying her elite squad of operatives past high-tech security systems, mainly by tapping away at a computer, looking very serious and saying stuff like “writing a new access code … the system’s offline!”

As tradecraft goes, this is not exactly John le Carré. But soon the bland espionage intrigue gains a surprising wrinkle: It transpires that Stone is a double agent working for another, even more secret intelligence agency, known as the Charter, which controls an all-powerful computer called the Heart. A kind of omniscient algorithm described at one point as “the closest thing mankind has to perfect intelligence,” the Heart has access to “trillions of data points” that effectively allow it to predict the future. Wired into the Charter headquarters via earpiece, Stone receives prophetic guidance from the Heart’s tech guru (Matthias Schweighöfer) to be transformed into an all-seeing superhero.

The Heart’s on-the-fly analyses are rendered as big floating digital maps clogged with barely legible graphs and statistics, and Schweighöfer, scrutinizing the data, is forced to spend much of his screen time standing there waving his hands around in a vain effort to look like he’s actually controlling something. (Steven Spielberg made this same sort of thing look cool in “Minority Report,” but the “Heart of Stone” director Tom Harper does not have quite the same touch.) And yet, even if the computer shenanigans look goofy, they’re more interesting than the movie’s run-of-the-mill spy thrills. Bewilderingly, Rachel’s access to the Heart is severed early in the film’s second act — dragging us right back to the mundane cloak-and-dagger stuff.

Computerless, Rachel gets her hands dirty through car chases, fist fights and more to regain control of the Heart’s predictive powers. Here, the movie’s influence shifts from “Minority Report” to a franchise also starring Tom Cruise: “Mission: Impossible,” from which “Heart of Stone” steals multiple set pieces in their entirety. A motorcycle chase strikingly similar to the exquisite one from “Rogue Nation” looks flat and pedestrian by comparison, with dull staging and a corny gag; its knockoff “Fallout” HALO jump, however, is shameless plagiarism, made all the more insulting by appearing so ludicrously fake. Cruise jumped out of an actual airplane. Gadot free falls through bad C.G.I.

Cruise’s adversary in the latest “Mission: Impossible” is an omnipotent algorithm with the power to destroy humanity — a metaphor for the data-driven forces of the streaming landscape eroding the sanctity of the cinema. What does it say that in “Heart of Stone,” from Netflix, the heroes work for the computer, and the powerful algorithm is represented as a force for good? If Cruise is trying to save the movies, as he’s often credited with doing, he’s trying to save us from films like this.

Heart of Stone
Rated PG-13 for intense action, strong language and some graphic violence. Running time: 2 hours 2 minutes. Watch on Netflix.

Heart of Stone

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