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Alex Rider thinks he is a normal school boy, until his uncle is killed. He discovers that his uncle was actually spy on a mission, when he was killed. Alex is recruited by Alan Blunt to continue the mission. He is sent to Cornwall to investigate a new computer system, which Darrius Sayle has created. He plans to give the new computer systems to every school in the country, but Mr. Blunt has other ideas and Alex must find out what it is. Written by
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Book adaptations rarely capture the excellence of the novel which they are based upon and though the same can be said for 'Stormbreaker', it still is a rather good film considering the fact it is mainly aimed at the pre-teen and young teen audience.
Based on the first of Anthony Horowitz's 'Alex Rider' novels, the story is centred around orphaned fourteen-year-old Alex Rider who lives with his Uncle Ian, a man who his nephew assumes is a dull bank worker but is in fact an MI6 operative. When Ian is killed on a mission, his superiors are determined to recruit Alex to break the case. Pressured into complying, Alex is trained at an SAS-type camp before being sent undercover to discover the true intents of psychopath Darius Sayle, who is planning a nationwide release of computers he has dubbed Stormbreakers.
In his big-screen debut as Alex Rider, sixteen-year-old Alex Pettyfer was a shade too old for the role (he was as tall as most of the adult cast, which took away the shock his role as a child thrust into danger). However, although he did have lapses where his performance turned wooden, he was quite successful in bringing the character to life, depicting Rider's determination, anger and cockiness well. It's just a shame he was no-where near as good as he proved himself to be in 'Tom Brown's Schooldays'. Mickey Rourke was great as the unhinged and vengeful Sayle, his real-life disastrous plastic surgery only enhancing his character's crazed nature. It was Pettyfer and Rourke who carried the bulk of the film but their co-stars, including Ewan McGregor, Sophie Okonedo, Robbie Coltrane and Stephen Fry, made their presence known despite having minor roles.
The fight and action scenes were nicely performed and depicted a suitably odd feel by conveying the fact it is a boy in the heat of the battle. I also enjoyed the homages to James Bond such as how the main credits at the start exploded onto the screen and how Mr. Smithers nicely complimented Bond's Q. And it was also change for the better to meet Ian Rider as he is already dead in the beginning of the novel so we never really get a feel of what his character might have been like (although we could have done without the stereotypical busy father-figure/neglected child scenes).
However, there were numerous low points in the film. I love Bill Nighy and he did give a good performance as MI6 boss Mr Blunt but the character just didn't come across right. He was too slapstick to properly depict the cold edge to Mr Blunt, a man who doesn't think twice about sending a child into the line of fire. The change to the character of Jack Starbright was also annoying. She isn't meant to be a karate expert nor does she ever become directly involved in Alex's missions so there was absolutely no need for the fight scene. It was quite irking to see the script was poorly handled in terms of keeping Alex's role a secret. Instead of both MI6 and Alex himself taking great care to ensure no-one ever learns of his part in bringing down Sayle, he's all over the news in the film and even his little girlfriend knows the truth. It ruined the idea that if recruiting Alex as a child spy became public, it would be humiliating for MI6 and disrupt whatever chance of normality Alex tries to harbour for himself.
For a first outing though, 'Stormbreaker' was enjoyable and would probably please young members of the family as well as parents dragged along. However, the unnecessary humorous touches to the film will very likely leave many older teens and twenty-somethings wanting a bit more 'meat'. Hopefully when they adapt 'Point Blanc', the darker edge that makes the novels so addictive is retained.
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