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Heart of Stone (2023) - Movie Review

Tom Harper's "Heart of Stone," with Gal Gadot as the leading lady, hopes to be the genesis of a spy franchise reminiscent of “Mission: Impossible” and James Bond. However, the movie comes across as a mere mishmash of iconic films, offering nothing fresh.

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Rachel Stone, played by Gadot, is part of a covert peacekeeping organization called the Charter. While masquerading as a rookie MI6 tech agent, she embarks on a global journey-from the Alps to Lisbon and Iceland. Disappointingly, these picturesque locations do not capture their essence.

Sophie Okonedo, who portrays Rachel's superior, Nomad, recruited Rachel at a young age. The film glosses over the reasons and her training, leaving viewers in the dark. Matthias Schweighöfer, the ubiquitous Netflix actor, steps in as "Jack of Hearts," Rachel's tech ally. Using "The Heart," a potent supercomputer, he aids her missions-recalling a scene Tom Cruise aced in “Minority Report,” but here it feels derivative.

The Charter's objectives are via dialogue laden with exposition. This mode of communication extends to most characters, resulting in uninspiring conversations. Despite Paul Ready and Jing Lusi's commendable efforts in their roles as Stone's comrades, Bailey and Yang, they're underutilized. Jamie Dornan's portrayal of Parker echoes Colin Farrell in “Daredevil,” while Alia Bhatt's hacker role, Keya has clichés. Only Jon Kortajarena truly embraces his antagonist part.

Greg Rucka, the co-screenwriter, disappoints, especially considering his previous work on "The Old Guard" showcased rich character development. Gina Prince-Bythewood's directorial skills in "The Old Guard" starkly contrast Harper's lackluster effort in "Heart of Stone."

Harper's direction lacks precision, with many action sequences appearing borrowed from classics. Scenes reminiscent of Bond movies and “Mission Impossible” come to the fore, even a sequence echoing “The Rocketeer” - though with subpar CGI effects.

Gadot's acting skills remain untested as her character's emotions are stifled. This limitation results in an unflattering portrayal of her combat skills. Harper seems unsure about highlighting Gadot's capabilities.

The film stumbles thematically too. Concepts like "determinism" are around without delving into their implications on the characters' choices or the algorithmic decision-making of The Heart. The movie's narrative doesn’t challenge the Charter's surveillance-heavy methodology, which leans totalitarian. Even revelations about the Charter's past errors are attributing them to individual mistakes rather than systemic issues.

In the end, "Heart of Stone" neatly sidesteps moral complexities by eliminating several characters, hinting at future installments for the franchise. It seems emblematic of today's cinematic era-prioritizing franchise-building and big data. Sadly, this film feels like a hollow attempt to create a female-fronted series while inadvertently endorsing a pro-surveillance stance.