Netflix's new spy thriller isn’t the movie you would expect as Alia Bhatt’s Hollywood debut, but it shows promise as she stars alongside other notable celebrities such as Gal Gadot and Jamie Dornan. Winding through scenic locations and plot devices alike,it takes enough twists and turns to keep you entertained, but ultimately leaves you feeling the same way an empty popcorn bucket does – you just wish there was more to it.
The intro sequence takes us to the frosty peaks of the Alps, with an MI6 team comprised of Parker (Jamie Dornan), Yang (Jing Luisi), Bailey (Paul Ready) and Rachel Stone (Gal Gadot). Our protagonist is introduced as a “baby agent” who takes on the role of the hacker in the team, providing tech skills from the van. This mission sees her stepping out into the field for the first time to access a security network, and this is where she first encounters Keya Dhawan (Alia Bhatt), a genius hacker who hijacks their communications.
The setup is there – the potential for a battle of hackers on opposite sides would make for an interesting watch on its own. However, Stone is not a rookie MI6 agent but an undercover operative for the Charter, a group of ex-intelligence officers dedicated to global peace. Charter apparently uses a supercomputer called the Heart (very reminiscent of the Machine from “Person of Interest”) to direct the course of action of its agents to save as many lives as possible.
We follow Stone as she works undercover in the MI6, eventually coming to care about her co-workers enough to blow her cover when they’re in mortal danger. A subsequent betrayal sets the main story in action as Stone tries to stop her enemies from obtaining the Heart and misusing it.
The movie does initially lead you to believe that Keya Dhawan would have more of a central role in the plot, with her early introduction as a threat and her murky motivations. However, it makes little room for emotional backstories, going from one action sequence to the next, which leaves us with nothing but a throwaway line in the middle of a busy scene to explain Keya's motives.
While it is hard to critique an action movie for being, well, an action movie, the characters feel flat in a way that stops you from really engaging. Gal Gadot delivers a commendable performance, bringing emotional depth to the role of the superspy, and you can see the promise of a complex character behind Alia Bhatt’s Keya, whose character had the makings of the chief antagonist of this movie. In another timeline, her role would be as a central villain who would present Stone not just with intense fight sequences but a true moral dilemma.
Despite all that could be, Heart of Stone is entertaining enough for what it is. Backed by Gal Gadot’s star power, incredible settings from the Alps to the deserts in Senegal, and fun, energetic action sequences that keep you on your toes, the movie is anything but boring. While it doesn’t do anything remarkable, Heart of Stone does a great job at keeping you reasonably entertained for a while, just like your bucket of classic salted popcorn.