Heart of Stone opens strongly with a mountainous MI6 mission that subverts the trope of field agents versus the techies stuck in the van; then the script intervenes and it at all begins to unravel into Netflix’s trademark action movie recipe of big name stars and poor writing. The plot centres around worldwide agency “The Charter” which, beholden to no government, is able to tackle problems that national security services cannot. Everyone receives an alias based on a deck of cards which probably sounded cool on paper but is used inconsistently and seems a highly impractical limitation for a globe-spanning organisation. They operate using “The Heart”, an algorithmic predictive engine that guides their actions — the script plays on fears about ceding decision-making control to AI, yet it seems that following the AI’s direction would have saved a lot of lives. This makes Stone’s rebelliousness harder for the audience to cheer, an essential component of these movies. The action itself includes a pleasing range of practical effects, much of the CGI budget being used to create The Heart’s interactive digital projections as events are analysed in real time back at base. That blend of technology gives Heart of Stone a visual identity of its own, even if there are few memorable set pieces. The result is another competent but forgettable action flick in Netflix’s search for a franchise.
Disclosure: I know personally at least one person involved in the making of this film
“This is London. Someone has died in every room in every building and on every street corner in the city.”
Edgar Wright’s London-based ghost story lavishly conjures Soho in the 1960s but serves as a deliberately stark warning against romanticising bygone eras, exposing coercive mistreatment of women beneath the glossy facade drenched in neon light. We see the entire film through the perspective of Eloise, a modern-day fashion student who experiences visions of the past through mirrors. These reflections provide the film’s best visual flourishes, achieved predominantly through practical sleight of hand and clever choreography (particularly a stunning dance sequence in an exquisite recreation of Café de Paris with repeated Texas Switches, a favourite of Wright). Eloise’s attempt to reinvent herself at university mirrors her visions of Sandie’s grasp at stardom in the 60s . This is communicated through sound design and colour as Eloise crosses to experience Sandie’s world, the coldly desaturated indifference of London suddenly giving way to the vibrant 1960s, with front audio bursting into Dolby Atmos surround. Anya Taylor-Joy is mesmerising, her singing voice adding to her talents. There is also something about former Doctor Who stars twisting their charm into something darker, Matt Smith’s manipulative Jack reminiscent of David Tennant’s Purple Man in Jessica Jones. The horror elements work more through atmosphere than jump scares (though there are some), coupled with Eloise’s concerns about her own mental state. Unfortunately, although the third act reveals are largley satisfying, Last Night in Soho becomes less than it could be when confined to the present day and more conventional horror visuals.
Disclosure: I know personally at least one person involved in the making of this film.