Capturing the Essence: Netflix’s Supreme Tribute to Mission: Impossible in Heart of Stone

Netflix has extensively pursued action franchises over time. The grind and intensity of Extraction yielded favorable results, and another installment of the Old Guard saga is in development. However, this strategic approach didn’t yield the same success for Bright, The Gray Man, and numerous other projects aimed at captivating audiences and setting the stage for potential series. The primary reason being their quality didn’t measure up. (Although The Gray Man is persisting, it’s foreseeable that its returns will diminish.)

Enter Heart of Stone (August 11), an action-packed escapade that sets itself apart from typical Netflix content by embracing audaciousness. This endeavor, directed by Tom Harper, known for helming both the melodious narrative of Wild Rose and the airborne chronicle of The Aeronauts—depicting the most harrowing day in the lives of Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones—carries a distinctive flair and sense of purpose, outshining many of its peers. If any of these potential series catalysts stands a chance at prolonged triumph, it might just be this one.

Written by Greg Rucka and Allison Schroeder, the film mimics the expansive scope and jaw-dropping feats reminiscent of the Mission: Impossible series. Although some of the physical feats appear significantly enhanced by computer-generated imagery, there’s no doubt that Star Gal Gadot isn’t as committed to risking herself purely for the sake of entertainment as Tom Cruise is. Nevertheless, Heart of Stone still manages to deliver visceral thrills, many of which unfold in actual locales such as Lisbon, Iceland, the Senegalese desert, and the Italian Alps. Harper truly interacts with these settings, using them as more than just stagnant backgrounds for uninspiring action sequences.

Similar to the M:I films, Heart of Stone grapples with the complexities of covert power, exploring its applications and drawbacks. The plot, while not as intricate as the world-engulfing AI narrative in Dead Reckoning, possesses a few additional layers to maintain engagement. Well-placed plot twists inject an invigorating rhythm into the film. However, one can’t help but wonder if this inaugural chapter has exhausted its repertoire of narrative surprises, leaving little room for potential sequels to expand upon.

The plot of the film is difficult to discuss without giving away one of its twists. But essentially, Gadot embodies Rachel Stone, an intelligence operative entangled in a pursuit involving a hyper-advanced computer program (to some extent) and an enigmatic group of morally ambiguous villains. Jamie Dornan, characterized by his Irish accent and captivating gaze, portrays a member of Rachel’s team with whom she has developed a dangerously close bond—a risky move for someone with such a perilous underlying purpose. Rising Indian film star Alia Bhatt brings to life a cunning adversary with complex human dimensions, her morality intricately woven just as it should be for a convincing antagonist.

While traces of the expected Netflix aesthetic are evident in Heart of Stone’s visual style, Harper extracts a level of tangible immediacy from digital rendering. For instance, as an ambulance races down a snowy mountain, it seems genuinely present within the snowy expanse. Lisbon’s appearance is genuinely gritty and authentic. While this may sound like a backhanded compliment, considering the extensive use of CGI elsewhere in the film, any semblance of genuine environment and texture feels like a triumph. Even scenes that seem heavily manufactured—such as a frenzied escape from an exploding blimp—are meticulously crafted compared to the standard fare.

Gadot’s performance as the lead may come off as somewhat subdued, as usual. However, she effectively sells the action and is complemented by compelling portrayals from Bhatt, Sophie Okonedo as Rachel’s handler, and Netflix regular Matthias Schweighöfer. The latter adeptly portrays extensive swiping on an expansive, spherical digital screen—reminiscent of Minority Report—in a believable manner. Heart of Stone exhibits a thoughtful arrangement, a rarity among films of its genre, which augurs well for its potential as a franchise.

Not that a sequel is imperative. Heart of Stone’s true appeal lies in its early, revelatory moments. After that, it transitions into an engaging, proficient action film. While the lore established within the film, involving a covert and ostensibly benevolent group of extralegal operatives employing playing cards as aliases, isn’t as riveting as the IMF in Ethan Hunt’s world, Heart of Stone valiantly aspires to reach those heights. Nonetheless, between this intricate mythology and the prospect of another Gray Man installment, I would opt for Rachel and her enigmatic allegiances any day. But perhaps that’s just the languid days of August influencing my perspective, and I’m holding Heart of Stone to a rather lenient standard. Nevertheless, the movie delivers enjoyment, which could be precisely what we require at this moment. Let’s reconvene next summer for another thrilling ride.

Leave a comment