Before it manages to miraculously rack up 17 billion hours of watch time in the background when people are folding their laundry and feeding their cats, we might as well talk about Heart Of Stone, director Tom Harper's yellow-ish notice in the spy action genre, starring Gal Gadot. Her character Rachel Stone is just your regular tech expert in a MI6 team during the day but secretly an intelligence agent working undercover for a highly advanced peacekeeping agency called Charter. When the MI6 team's mission goes wrong with deadly consequences after an encounter with hacker Keya Dhawan (Alia Bhatt)—who's after Charter's AI tech—Stone's purpose and allegiances are compromised.
Stone's MI6 colleagues include team leader Parker (Jamie Dornan), Bailey (Paul Ready) and Yang (Jing Lusi) while the Charter team features executive Nomad (Sophie Okonedo) and AI specialist ''Jack of Hearts'' (Matthias Schweighöfer).
There are some vaguely funny remarks to be made about the movie being tailor-made for a streaming service's own algorithm because it's so safe and unobtrusive while having the story's central conflict be about artificial intelligence but do not worry, this was written by humans. While screenwriters Greg Rucka and Allison Schroeder certainly shouldn't be replaced, neither the story or its developments will light the world on fire in any meaningful way. The dialogue is extremely watered-down as characters are obligated to explain every single motivation, action and twist with little to no sincerity which also then affects the performances which feel just as insincere — something that is essentially a kiss of death for a movie that is determined to be so serious.
Heart Of Stone is mostly just extremely okay with satisfactory craftsmanship, such as Charles Wood's production design and at least comprehensible even if not spectacular action and stunt choreography, but the acting and character depth aren't comprehensible enough to earn your investment in anything. There are no outlandish offenders here but Gadot doesn't quite possess the kind of charisma and control that a lead actor should have, though she's not helped by the fact that Stone as a character is an amalgamation of clichés and dull facts.
Harper on the other hand is sometimes in control of the storytelling with a solid sense of rhythm and space but also seems to be out of his depth at times, specifically when it comes to visual effects (supervised by Mark Breakspear) and how to utilise them. Awkward CGI-heavy stunts are more distracting than thrilling when the sequences are designed to have Gadot, Dornan or others drop exposition or goofy one-liners when there's no real element of danger that sticks with you. But then again, that's kind of the thesis of the movie: it's sloppy, basic and ultimately extremely forgettable.
Smileys: Nothing stands out
Frowneys: Dialogue, VFX
A literal joker origin story.