Heart of Stone review: Gal Gadot, Alia Bhatt's spy thriller speaks of sisterhood | Hollywood - Hindustan Times
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Heart of Stone review: Gal Gadot, Alia Bhatt's pacey spy thriller speaks of sisterhood across age and ethnicity

ByDevansh Sharma
Aug 11, 2023 09:15 AM IST

On the surface, Heart of Stone may come across as just another spy thriller from the saturated genre. But not if one peeks into its heart, pun intended.

It was only last month that we saw Tom Cruise battle an artificial intelligence villain called The Entity in Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One. And it hasn't been a few months since we saw Priyanka Chopra and Richard Madden operate in Citadel, a spy agency that transcends geopolitical borders.

Alia Bhatt plays the antagonist in Heart of Stone.
Alia Bhatt plays the antagonist in Heart of Stone.

On the surface, Heart of Stone may seem like an illegitimate child of the two spy thrillers. But if one digs deeper, it shows that the playbook of the saturated genre isn't set in Stone and that it could also have a beating Heart at its centre.

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(Also Read: Gal Gadot interview: Alia Bhatt is ‘super ready’ to break into Hollywood)

I spy, you spy

There's an all-encompassing AI force called the Heart. Unlike The Entity, it does have a shape and form. It's being protected by the Charter, a global spy agency that exists outside the ambit of any country or intergovernmental organisation, just like Citadel.

Now, who's in the Charter, who's in MI6 (UK's spy agency), who operates independently would be leading to sharing who betrays whom, who works for whom and who may get killed. Sure, you'd have seen betrayals and deaths coming from a mile if we're talking spy thrillers here.

None of that may take you by surprise. Because one has evolved into a spy thriller connoisseur, given the healthy dose one has been getting from the bloated genre lately. The pace is brisk, the action is pulsating, and the twists are galore. But what sets Tom Harper's Heart of Stone apart is the second half.

Sisterhood of spies

The women characters are the beating heart of Heart of Stone. Gal Gadot as Rachel Stone is in her usual Wonder Woman avatar when she performs action. Even the way she advances at an opponent is reminiscent of her popular character. But she manages to make Rachel Stone her own woman. She lends her grit, but also cartloads of empathy. She determinedly uses that empathy as a weapon of choice, even though it ends up as her Kryptonite a couple of times. There's a telling scene where she tells her spy boss, tearing up “So I shouldn't have listened to the Heart.”

Here, she's referring to the Heart, the AI device that guides the spy network. But she's also referring to her own heart, the Heart of (Rachel) Stone. The idea of listening to one's instinct as opposed to a technologically advanced tool lies at the heart of the story. The struggle of distinguishing between instinct and impulse makes for Rachel Stone's central conundrum.

Alia Bhatt plays Keya Dhawan, a 22-year-old hacker with a resolute motive. Early on, there's a shot of her raising a toast to Rachel across the bar. Then there's also a shot of her pointing a gun at her later. But the shot from the trailer that perfectly encapsulates her character is the one where she gingerly extracts the Heart and looks at it as if it's a forbidden fruit. Alia channels her instinctive brilliance as an actor in many such moments, especially in the second half, where she hits the sweet spot between being heavy-handed with her villainy and being sceptical of her nobility.

(Also Read: Alia Bhatt interview on Heart of Stone: ‘There’s a lot of purpose and dedication in playing the bad guy')

There's thus a strong sense of sisterhood that connects the likes of Rachel and Keya, despite them being from different nationalities and age, and having equally strong but often conflicting motives. This sisterhood spans across an Indian, an Israeli, a Black woman (Rachel's boss), an Asian (Rachel's fellow MI6 spy), and in a cameo, a 76-year-old Glenn Close.

Towards the end, Rachel tells a man who thinks he has the edge over her, “You men just know how to destroy each other. You'll never have what I do: someone watching your back.” This is followed by two women giving their all to take that man down. And that's essentially what Heart of Stone stands for, under its larger-than-life exterior: taking down patriarchy, two women at a time.

Heart of Stone premieres on Netflix on August 11.

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