The first in a possible franchise gets the series off to a good start, except no one came

Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker

on October 06, 2006 by Kim Williamson
Being released in the U.S. with the expanded title Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker (the title card onscreen still bears the single-word Stormbreaker from its unsuccessful midsummer English bow) via Weinstein's stateside pact with MGM, this baby-Bond actioner for tweeners has almost an embarrassment of riches in casting. The good-looking and assured Alex Pettyfer plays a 14-year-old London boy, Alex Rider, being raised by his uncle (Ewan McGregor), who is secretly working for Brit spy agency MI6 -- until his killing by a Russian agent (Damian Lewis). When a get-revenge ploy doesn't work with the lad, Alex gives in to the coercions of two MI6 operators (Bill Nighy and Sophie Okonedo) when they then threaten deportation for the Riders' American housekeeper (Alicia Silverstone). Under their control, Alex sets off for Cornwall and the corporate HQ of one Darrius Sayle (an unrecognizable Mickey Rourke) to discover the truth behind a coming nationwide bow of a new computer system called Stormbreaker. Raised poor in England, Sayle was mocked as a child in school by English upper-crusters -- one of whom has become the country's prime minister (Robbie Coltrane). For Sayle, the whole ploy is revenge; when launched in schools throughout Blighty by the unwitting P.M., the Stormbreaker system will release a virus that will kill millions of schoolchildren.

Perhaps it's that everything is so British, or that the opus is based on the first of a series of Alex Rider novels by screenwriter Anthony Horowitz, but Stormbreaker plays with, well, not complete authenticity, but more-than-expected authenticity. Then again, as the School Library Journal review of the first Rider book suggested, "Warning: Suspend reality." Despite the seasoned players engaging the story without a Bondian wink in sight -- not even at the name of Alex's school girlfriend, Sabina Pleasure (Sarah Bolger) -- the various acts of derring-do and infiltration come all too easy for the young Rider. (What's really hard is taking the over-the-top performance of Missi Pyle who, as Sayle's number-one gal Nadia Vole, seems to have been directed by Mel Brooks at his looniest.) Not so much due to the boys-with-toys gizmos -- including a smoke-bomb Nintendo DS -- that help Alex in his quest, but more due to the earnest performances, Stormbreaker doesn't carry the kid charm of similar American predecessor Agent Cody Banks. That leaves matters in the hands of Pettyfer and his considerable charisma, and it's those tweenaged boys who would like to be like him and those tweenaged girls who would like to be beside him that are the likeliest respondents here. Distributor: MGM
Cast: Alex Pettyfer, Ewan McGregor, Mickey Rourke, Bill Nighy, Sophie Okonedo, Alicia Silverstone, Missi Pyle, Sarah Bolger, Ashley Walters, Damian Lewis, Robbie Coltrane, Stephen Fry, Andy Serkis and Jimmy Carr
Director: Geoffrey Sax
Screenwriter: Anthony Horowitz
Producers: Marc Samuelson, Peter Samuelson, Steve Christian and Andreas Grosch
Genre: Action
Rating: PG for sequences of action violence and some peril
Running time: 93 min.
Release date: October 13

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