Netflix recently dropped a new ‘blockbuster’ spy flick starring the fan-favorite ‘Wonder Woman’ actress Gal Gadot in the lead role. The film got some mixed reviews, and although it feels like just another spy flick, it does have its moments. Also, the story feels quite… familiar, I’d say. So, is ‘Heart of Stone’ based on a true story, or perhaps a book?
‘Heart of Stone’ is not based on either a book or a true story. It’s a completely fictional story by Greg Rucka, whereas the screenplay was written by Rucka and Allison Schroeder. The movie might feel familiar because it uses common spy thriller tropes, as well as a contemporary, AI-oriented narrative.
Now, being timely and speaking out on subjects that are relevant today is predominantly a good thing in movies. However, ‘Heart of Stone’ just did it in kind of a bad way, and some stuff in the film just doesn’t work – even if it does feel contemporary. Nevertheless, we’ll dive into the inspiration behind the movie, both in real life and in other cinematic franchises.
What is ‘Heart of Stone’ about?
When ‘Hear of Stone’ was announced, it was dubbed as a ‘female-led version’ of ‘Mission: Impossible’ by some fans when they heard the plot. And, it basically is just that. It’s a simple spy thriller movie where the power to save the world lies in the hands of a single secret agent – in this case; it’s Rachel Stone, portrayed by Gal Gadot.
Rachel is a young MI6 agent who we meet on a mission in the Italian Alps, where Stone is her team’s tech support. However, we don’t know from the beginning that Rachel is also employed by another, even more, secret agency called the Charter.
They tasked Rachel with safekeeping and protecting an Artificial Intelligence item known as the Heart, which is described in the movie as ‘the closest thing humanity has to perfect intelligence.’ Surprisingly, The Heart is a benevolent AI with access to a ‘trillion data points’ (whatever that means), enabling it to process the information in an incredible, almost precognitive way.
It allows the Heart to successfully and precisely predict the future, which is why Stone was tasked to keep the Heart from falling into the wrong hands. Bada-bing, bada-boom, insert a ton of action scenes, and she completes her mission. The end.
Now, I’d argue that the movie is just your typical run-of-the-mill spy thriller that basically steals plot lines – and even entire action scenes – from other popular franchises, but there are some intriguing moments and points in the film that I did find interesting, and contemporary.
Is ‘Heart of Stone’ based on a book or a true story?
The use of AI as the center MacGuffin in the movie feels quite timely, especially now that there is so much talk about Artificial Intelligence and its benefit or harm to society and how the technology may ultimately replace us and actually destroy the value of human labor. So, is ‘Heart of Stone’ based on a true story, a book, or anything similar?
The truth is, ‘Heart of Stone’ is a completely fictional story. It was conceptualized by a well-known comic book author, Greg Rucka, who also wrote the movie’s screenplay alongside Allison Schroeder.
The movie does feel contemporary because of the overarching theme of Artificial Intelligence, but it was not actually based on any story in particular. Rucka did, however, speak about the motivations and inspirations behind the film. In an interview with MPA, Rucka explained:
“Before I started working on the movie, I spoke with Gal, and we both believed the core tenet of what we wanted to achieve was an action thriller grounded in reality.”
So, the contemporary subject of AI certainly inspired Rucka to write the story, but he didn’t base his work on anything in particular. Ironically, the strikes in the movie industry today – that have been going on for over 100 days – are heavily influenced by the negative sides of AI and the fact that it’s slowly taking over jobs in the industry.
Of course, it’s only a small part of the reasoning behind the strikes. The biggest reasons are, of course, uneven and unfair distribution of resources and profits made by huge production companies and entertainment giants who take a huge amount of the profits while leaving the writers and the actors – the ones that actually do the lion’s share of the work – pocket change.
Ironically, ‘Heart of Stone’ is a Netflix Original that portrays AI as a ‘friend’ and as an overwhelmingly positive force in the film. I’m not saying there’s an agenda here… just saying it’s ironic.
Possible inspiration behind the story
Of course, the AI-based narrative is certainly inspired by contemporary subjects and conversations about Artificial Intelligence and its influence on society. But there are other plot points I picked up on that could be inspired by real-life events – or, at least, other real-life movie franchises.
Of course, every spy movie is inspired by other spy movies, as the same tropes and action sequences appear all the time. However, it seems that ‘Heart of Stone’ is really, really heavily inspired by the ‘Mission: Impossible’ franchise.
Like, the motorcycle chase scene looks awfully similar to the scene in ‘Rogue Nation.’ Or that airplane jumps from ‘Fallout’ that’s so obviously CGI in ‘Heart of Stone’ (whereas the insane but brilliant Tom Cruis actually jumped off of a plane). Yeah, it’s safe to say that they actually wanted to make a female-led ‘Mission: Impossible.’
Actually – the movie was executively produced by the same team behind Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning.
Then, there’s the zeppelin in the film – that they clearly state is filled with hydrogen, but then they just walk around and fight in it with no masks or anything. The fact that they mentioned hydrogen so emphatically instantly reminded me of the Hindenburg Disaster.
For those who don’t know the story, the Hindenburg was a huge commercial zeppelin that caught fire in a major disaster in 1937 due to leaking hydrogen and a spark caused by static electricity. I’m sure the writers were inspired to do the zeppelin scene from this particular piece of history.
So, although ‘Heart of Stone’ is purely fictional in its entirety, the inspiration behind it is obviously harnessed from many major spy thriller franchises, some interesting pieces of history – and contemporary matters such as the development of AI.