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It's a shame when you see a film that has the golden potential to grow and become a franchise to fail massively at the cinema due to poor receipts. Stormbreaker is a good example of such a film that should have done better and can be considered underrated.
Based upon the Antony Horowitz's first novel Stormbreaker tells the story of a fourteen year old boy who gets recruited into the British Secret Service. Released in 2006 the film tells the story of Ian Rider, an agent who in the opening part of the film is killed in action. His nephew, Alex, only ever knew him as a Bank Manager whose work was based far from home and is surprised to learn that he was a spy working for the British Secret Service. Alex Ryder is even more shocked to find that MI6 want Alex want to recruit Alex to continue his Uncle's work involving an undercover assignment to discover just what millionaire businessman Darius Sayle is up to with regards to the distribution of a computer system called Stormbreaker to all schools in the UK.
The star of the show is Alex Ryder, it's undoubtedly his film and playing the main character is a young actor called Alex Pettyfer. Tall with long blonde hair, he is the complete modern looking hero and a refreshing departure from the usual dark hair and neatly dressed appearance. Even though Ryder is still a child, his presence and the style of dialogue that he is given makes him appear a lot older and more adult than some of the characters he comes up against.
For a film of this nature it seems every major British actor has been assembled to give the film the oomph factor, in fact the scope is quite diverse. Actors such as Bill Nighy, Robbie Coltrane, Ewan McGregor, Andy Serkis, Damian Lewis as well as Alicia Silverstone, Mickey Rourke and Stephen Fry all play characters in the film and add their presence to the respective scenes. Even Jimmy Carr appears as an operative and looks decisively creepy when on screen in the short yet rather memorable scenes he is in. Mickey Rourke has no problem wearing a little make-up in the film to give his character a different appeal, however the plastic surgery aspect does give him the gruesome look and so the character stands out more than expected.
There has been a lot of "borrowing" from the world of 007 and also some other well known sources and although you are bound to get some crossover with the scenes that see Ryder in jeopardy, these are entertaining to watch and although simpler in terms with the audience it's aimed at the film does make good entertainment and provides a number of action sequences that raise the bar in terms of suspense. Interestingly the action sequences in the film do not exceed the realms of physic bending as some film have recently and set out to show the hero in a situation rather than a continuous run of good luck. As the film continues it is obvious to see that the formula has been borrowed and rewritten as the obligatory scenes when Ryder is kitted out with field equipment is situated in Hamley's Toy Store, this is when we see Stephen Fry as Smithers hand Ryder his kit of product placement gadgets such as a Nintendo DS with extras. This is also where a friend of mine wa an extra playing a father of an annoying child in the toy shop itself, and I have to say its quite strange to see him on screen!
Stormbreaker is very much a kid's film, yet a film that can easily be enjoyed by the entire family which today is quite a rare thing to see, given the fact that this could have been called James Bond Jr in one easy breathe is something that could easily be said at the beginning of the film and surprisingly as the film evolves it tends to get further away from 007 in terms of story and sees the main characters grow in such a way that a sequel should have been a sure thing. It is an obvious franchise in the making as Alex Ryder is plucked from what he thinks is a normal life and taken into another world. Its also refreshing to see Ryder when out on the mission fail in some areas, okay so there is going to be the obligatory scene where the hero is captured, yet here its done slightly different with regards to the manner in which it happens and therefore the approach taken to get to this stage is fresh in how its actually done. Although an origin story, its also a coming of age test for Ryder as well and throughout the film you see him grow up and take on the challenges in quite a mature way, none more so obvious when Ryder has to go on a training course where he is placed with soldiers who have no faith in the child and so they are captured, whilst the others have given up and are being held Ryder takes the imitative and makes his own plans to get out and escape and therefore earning respect from those around him.
The film isn't a comedy by any means at all and throughout the suspense is kept at a good level with sprinkles of humour added in just the right places that lighten the feel of the film. The comedy is applied in just the right places and used in quite a dry way allowing the adults watching to get the joke in a much deeper way than the children, so the film works on both levels.
Extras wise, the film does deliver to give a comprehensive overview of the film production. With commentary by Geoffrey Sax who through his direction has lifted a very good novel from paper to screen, to a very informative Making Of documentary that gives granular detail into the films and how it was made. With mandatory trailers and and a surprise addition of two music videos the extras are quite surprising and again you can see that the packaging was geared up for the film to become part of a franchise, alright this does try and take on two other franchises such as Harry Potter and James Bond with the hero being only 14 years old and you can see the obvious "borrowing" as well in the extras and the clear overlaps.
Overall this is an entertaining film and Film4 have been showing this a lot over the school holidays, around the teatime slot between 5 and 6pm. The series of novels based on Alex Ryder have been very successful and I can only think that the fans would have welcomed a cross-over to the big screen that bought the character to life. One thing that I didn't like in the film was the fact the fourteen year old is an expert with guns, there are scenes towards the end that see Ryder taking aim with a rifle to prevent something happening. I was quite uncomfortable with this scene and what the hero was doing and thought if this part was actually necessary. Apart from that I do recommend the film to be watched as it truly a film that is underrated in my opinion and probably a film that will go on to become a cult classic by some. Personally I would like to wonder if the second novel in the series would have been the next film or if they would have been produced out of order. Bottom line this will keep the kids occupied for 90 minutes, so perhaps the peace and quiet this film will generate will be welcomed.
One thing for sure... Alex Pettyfer has a good acting future ahead of him. Just a shame that no sequel is being made.
Stormbreaker (Alex Rider)
"He's no child Mr Blunt, he's a lethal weapon"
Stormbreaker was initially released in 2006 and it was recently shown on TV, thanks to the handy sky+ we recorded it and finally got comfy on the sofa and watched it last night. I remember when it was first released at the cinema and I never really gave it any consideration, it wasn't until my hubby pointed it out, that I thought to watch this. I'm glad that I did.
There are a lot of similarities between this film and some of the older James Bond films, such as, the over the top and often stereotypical bad guys, the crazy gadgets, the British secret service and the elaborate fight scenes. However, this isn't necessarily a bad thing, it does just have a feel about it that Alex Rider could be a young James Bond.
--A brief synopsis--
When his guardian and uncle, Ian Rider (Ewan McGregor), mysteriously dies in suspicious circumstances, 14-year-old Alex Rider (Alex Pettyfer) finds his world turned upside down and can't leave his creeping suspicions alone. Within mere days he has gone from a regular life as a regular schoolboy to a super spy with all the elaborate gadgets to match. After being coerced into joining and working for MI6, Alex has to take part in some gruelling SAS training exercises in a hope to get him operational ready as fast as possible. After being trained, and armed with some cunningly clever gadgets he finds himself hurled into his first mission. However, Alex soon finds himself surrounded by danger and with his life at stake it looks as if his first assignment could very well turn out to be his last.
This film is based on a set of books by Anthony Horowitz and after watching the film I am thinking about investing in a few of these. In other reviews people have referred to this series as being the Harry Potter spy equivalent. It is quite interesting that Anthony Horowitz also wrote the screenplay version, it will be interesting to see how true to the novel that he was.
I don't often notice the soundtracks of films but this film really has some great songs incorporated to all the right moments. The London Metropolitan Orchestra among some more poppy and rock numbers really made the action feel all that more intense and the chase scenes all that more gripping.
I was surprised by how many actors I recognised in this film, among my favourites were Stephen Fry who was playing Smithers the gadget tech guy working in a toy store. To name just a few more there was Alicia Silverstone playing the nanny, Bill Nighy playing the head MI6 contact, Robbie Coltrane as the prime minister, Ewan McGregor as Ian Rider and I was surprised to see Jimmy Carr. I'm actually a huge Jimmy Carr fan and I have been to see quite a few of his live shows over the last few years and he is by far one of my all time favourite comedians. Having said that I was disappointed in his role in this film, when I found out he was in this I was expecting him to be funny...I know that you shouldn't pigeon hole people, but I felt that I was always waiting for more from his character.
I really enjoyed this film, it isn't the type of film that you should take too seriously. It does make for a great afternoon of light entertainment. I was surprised that I liked this as much as I did I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this film to anyone. Overall, I think it deserves an above average four out of five stars.
Stormbreaker is based on the Anthony Horowitz's novel of the same name, and from the moment I saw the trailer, I was convinced that I wouldn't like this film - it looked cheesy and incredibly clunky, a lot like the daft Frankie Muniz star vehicle Agent Cody Banks. This does provide some unintentional laughter, though, simply because of how overblown and portentous it is.
Alex Rider (Alex Pettyfer) is a young orphan who lives with his uncle, Ian Rider (Ewan McGregor), and their maid, Jack Starbright (Alicia Silverstone). However, once Ian is killed in a supposed car accident, he learns that in fact, he was a secret agent for MI6. He is then recruited himself by Alan Blunt (Bill Nighy) and Tulip Jones (Sophie Okonedo) of the Special Operations Division. Of course, he's reluctant at first, but a few training montages later, he's a kick-ass spy machine, and ready to get revenge for the death of his uncle.
The problem with Stormbreaker is that while it sets its standards low, I imagine that it's also going to bore kids, unless those kids are very, very young. It's a very simple retread of a premise we've seen before, but it lacks the smarts to make it a full-on satire of the Bond films and how over the top they became in recent years (particularly during Brosnan's run). It could have been a solid comedy that keeps kids laughing and adults smirking at its cleverness, but instead it's just an almost serious, laughably so, spy "thriller" that has the most routine of plots.
Stormbreaker expertly squanders a rather distinguished cast, including Bill Nighy and Mickey Rourke, and there's just not enough here to make it worth recommending. In fact, the majority of the film is so vacuous that it had left my mind before the credits had even finished.
Stormbreaker is one of my favourite films and not just because Alex Pettyfer is in it!! Made in 2006, being 89minutes long and having an all star cast of; Alex Pettyfer as Alex Rider. Robbie Coltrane, Stephen Fry, Damian Lewis, Ewan McGregor, Bill Nighy, Sophie Okonedo, Missi Pyle, Andy Serkis, Alicia Silverstone and Mickey Rourke.
Based on the novel by Anthony Horowitz, Stormbreaker sees normal 14 year old teenage boy, Alex Rider take on a dangerous series of events. Alex lives with his uncle and house keeper, but when his uncle is mysteriously killed Alex sets out to find out how and why. By doing this Alex finds out that his uncle had a secret; he was a spy. Alex is then recruited by Mr Blunt and Mrs Jones of Special Operations Division - MI6. Here he learns the truth about the man that killed his uncle, an assassin by the name of Yassen Gregorovich. Alex sets out to learn the truth and has many obsticals to over come along the way. With his uncle's training, letting Alex do all his favourite hobbies, Alex is set to become a great spy. Alex goes on to defeat his enemies, get himself out of rather tight situations and saves the world!
This film is for anyone that loves a bit of adventure and action. I read the book before seeing the film and loved it. I then went on to read all the Alex Rider series and loved them all! I would deffinately recommend this film to anyone and you should also read the book!! With a great cast of characters you wont be bored and will want to watch it over again!
After reading the novel and loving it, I consequently held a skeptical mind over the making of a full-length film. When I found out the movie was a PG my expectations lowered - but with actors such as Damian Lewis and Ewan McGregor being cast, I contemplated the film being 'O.K.'
The film begins with Alex Rider, a seemingly normal child, with a normal dad and nanny at school carrying out his usual daily life. He is disoppointed to discover his father (played by Ewan McGregor) won't be joining him for dinner as he's held up in a 'business meal'. What Alex doesn't know is that his father occupation is far more exciting than he ever anticipated. His dad is actually a British spy working to uncover the truth behind one man's new invention which could be of danger to the country.
After his father is tragically killed on his mission, Alex is introduced to the life-style his father had by the same organisation. From then the film follows Alex and his task to find out exactly what Darrius Sayle (the baddy) is up to with new flashy computer simulation invention. Alex is placed undercover within the suspected enemy organisation and made to report back through James Bond-ish methods. The film doesn't lack pace, but acting from some of the younger actors is poor in places and lags behind the quality of the adults.
The films set locations are great and really suit the films genre as well as matching the books feel and meaning. The quality of filming is average in my view and fails to keep up with the pace of the movie. The films dialect is frustratingly average and needs spicing up for with to become a decent film. overall I would sum up the movie as 'watchable'.
Sarah Bolger ... Sabina Pleasure
Robbie Coltrane ... Prime Minister
Stephen Fry ... Smithers
Damian Lewis ... Yassen Gregorovich
Ewan McGregor ... Ian Rider
Bill Nighy ... Alan Blunt
Sophie Okonedo ... Mrs. Jones
Alex Pettyfer ... Alex Rider
Missi Pyle ... Nadia Vole
Mickey Rourke ... Darrius Sayle
Andy Serkis ... Mr. Grin
Alicia Silverstone ... Jack Starbright
Overall the film didn't stun or really impress me. The book is a much, much more fulfilling piece of entertainment in comparison. Its a shame this film didn't live up to my expectations as it contains some truely fantastic actors who seem to have been severely misplaced.
Alex Rider thinks he is just an ordinary schoolboy living with his uncle and a housekeeper after his parents' death. Then his uncle is killed, and Alex quickly finds out that his uncle's job wasn't as boring as he thought - he worked for MI6. His bosses, Mr Blunt and Mrs Jones, decide that Alex would be the ideal candidate for a spy, and, after a training course with the SAS, send him off on his first mission. This is to infiltrate the world of Darrius Sayle, the creator of a new computer network, who wants to install one of his computers, known as Stormbreakers, into every school in the country. But is Sayle's plan as philanthropic as it seems? And will Alex be able to cope with the responsibilities handed to him?
This film is based on a book of the same name by Anthony Horowitz - I have not read the book, so cannot comment on any similarities/differences between the two mediums. I am the first to admit that this film isn't really aimed at my profile - it is definitely a teenager's film and I suspect that the male demographic will like it more than the female. However, I was given a free copy and not being one to turn down a freebie, I thought it was worth a go. Considering that I am nearly forty and female, I found it much better than I expected - however, there are some major flaws that stop it from being a great film.
Alex Pettyfer plays Alex Rider, in what is apparently his first film role. I thought he was good in the role. There are occasions when I thought that he was a bit wooden, but I think that was as much down to the cheesy script as anything else. Most of the scenes he is in are action scenes and he certainly does those well - his facial expressions are convincing if nothing else. I did think he looked a little old for the role though - I think he is supposed to be fourteen, but he looked more like eighteen. This is perhaps the director's way of convincing the audience that Alex is old enough to be a 'spy' though; anyway, it didn't bother me all that much. His uncle, who has a few lines right at the beginning, is played by Ewan McGregor - it was good to see him, but he doesn't really add anything to the film and the role could have been played by virtually anyone.
Then there are a whole raft of roles that border on the comic - personally, although the film needed a touch of comedy to lift it, I am not sure about some of them. Mickey Rourke, who plays Darrius Sayle, is the worst. I just didn't get him. He wasn't funny, but he looked too stupid to be serious, and so it just didn't work. I think Rourke can be a fine actor, but he certainly didn't get the chance to show it here. I didn't much like Alicia Silverstone as Jack Starbright, the Rider's housekeeper, either - she looks odd and her character just didn't seem to flow right - I found her more annoying than anything else. Bill Nighy is almost unrecognisable as Mr Blunt, and again, I thought he was too over the top in the role and ended up being neither funny or serious. Sophie Okonedo as Mrs Jones can also do much much better - she looked so out of place I almost felt embarrassed for her.
There are some good supporting roles though. I thought Damian Lewis as Gregorovich, the man who killed Alex's uncle, was great. There is no silly make-up and fancy hair-dos here - he just looks like himself, yet manages to exude evil. That is the sign of a good actor. I also enjoyed Stephen Fry's role as the gadget man - clearly a take-off of James Bond, yet he did it well and actually raised a smile from me.
I really enjoyed the first forty-five minutes of this film. It goes without saying that you need to suspend disbelief - how many fourteen year old spies do you know of?!! However, it is an entertaining concept and because I didn't really know what was going to happen next, I found it very compelling. Once Alex starts to infiltrate Sayles' kingdom though, I began to lose interest. This is partly because I didn't fully understand what was going on - simply because it wasn't explained very well - and partly because I didn't really care - as a major crook, Sayle is just not very convincing.
This is an action film and from that point of view, I think it is a good one. I have read some complaints that the special effects weren't all that good. Personally, I thought they were absolutely fine for the film - certainly any inaccuracies went straight over the top of my head, and I think if you're only planning on watching the film once, then you should be more than satisfied. I really liked the chase scene in a car junk yard towards the beginning of the film - this was really well done, particularly because at that point we didn't really know what sort of skills Alex was going to come up with.
There are a number of special features with this DVD, none of which I had the urge to more than flick through. These include a documentary on the conversion from the book to the screen - basically an interview with Anthony Horowitz. Then there's a brief discussion of the stunts and how they were put together - great if you like to know the ins and outs of things like that. The horse chase has its own section. There's a very boring section on how one of the buildings in the film was created - I think you'd really need to be a fan to like that one. A five minute documentary on how Alex was cast for the film is more interesting. Then there is a trailer. Not very exciting as far as I'm concerned, but if this is your thing, then there's plenty of fodder for you. My DVD also has a section on new releases, including films I have never heard of before - all aimed at the teen market.
On the whole, this is an okay film to while away an hour or so, and would probably make a great family film if you have teenage boys, but it didn't really bowl me over. I am, however, obviously not the target audience. I don't know how fans of the books feel about it - I have heard differing views of how like the book it is - but as a stand-alone film, it is certainly not that brilliant. It is worth a watch if you're a teenager though, or perhaps if you just like a good action film. Just about recommended.
The DVD is available from play.com for £5.99.
Running time: 93 minutes
Stormbreaker is based on the great novel of the same name from Anthony Horowitz, however, the film is nowhere near as good as the book. The film isn't realistic and doesn't follow the book very well. The film is still packed with action and good in some areas. The settings are also very good with some fantastic shots of London from the air.
The film is suited to family viewing. In the film, Alex Rider is enlisted by MI6 and is told to save the world from destruction. The film is packed with action and is a great alternative from James Bond and Jason Bourne for youngsters. The storyline is very easy to understand and it will be great for the whole family. The film can be watched without knowledge of the books as the storyline is different to the books so diehard fans will be disappointed.
The cast isn't very good with some weak acting that will almost push you away. However, the special effects look great and the stunts will make your heart stop. The film is a roller coaster ride and the film will keep you stuck to your seat.
The film is still very entertaining and perfect for families. The film is full of action but the cast do a bad job.
Stormbreaker is the 2006 film from director Geoffrey Sax based on the book by Anthony Horowitz.
Alex Rider is a normal schoolboy living with his banker uncle. This is until he finds that his uncle has died in mysterious circumstances, murdered by international assassin Vassen Gregorovich. Alex finds himself recruited by MI6's agent Mr Blunt, and, equipped with the necessary skills due to his uncle's involvement in his extracurricular activities (languages, martial experts, shooting, mountaineering, scuba diving, etc), Alex is sent by the government to investigate the mysterious Darius Sayle in Cornwall.
The Cast and Performances
Fresh off the back of a decent performance in Tom Brown's Schooldays, Alex Pettyfer picks up the role of Alex Rider, and does it justice. He is believable as the young government agent, more believable in fact than some of the more established adult stars. Ewan McGregor plays Alex's uncle Ian, and although he is in it briefly, gives a good performance as usual. Damian Lewis gives a candid show as assassin Gregorovich, and Hollywood Bad Boy Mickey Rourke shows well as Darrius Sayle. In further supporting roles are an excellent Alicia Silverstone, but a disappointing Bill Nighy as Mr Blunt, and some rather pointless cameos by Robbie Coltrane and Stephen Fry.
This is definitely James Bond for kids. Everything is Bond-like, but on a lesser scale, and unfortunately this includes the believability of the film. I understand the idea is that an unlikely schoolboy becomes a superspy overnight, but it is not handled very well in the direction. The acting is wooden at times, but the action sequences and the choreography bring the quality back up. They give the film a magical quality that made me want to watch it not for the acting, but for the endless possibilities such a script could entertain.
By the end of the film, I was able to look beyond some average acting and an unbelievable plot, and enjoy what is essentially Bond for kids.
A decent enough film, well made on the whole and kept me entertained throughout.
I rate this film at 3 stars out of 5.
The DVD is available from amazon.co.uk for £4.98.
This review may also be posted on ciao.co.uk.
Thanks for reading.
Having read the Alex Rider books, I was interested to see what the film would be like. My conclusion is that it just shouldn't have been made. Anthony Horowitz gets away with some completely unbelievable events in his novels because they are novels. When they happen on the big screen you start to see just how unrealistic the whole thing is.
14 year old Alex Rider is living a normal life when his uncle dies suddenly. However, Alex finds that his uncle didn't die from a car accident, as he was told. All of a sudden, Alex is approached by MI6, and is asked to help them with the assignment that his uncle was killed on.
After a quick stay at an SAS training camp, Alex is off to infiltrate the goings-on of Harold Sayle, a billionaire about to donate thousands of his new "Stormbreaker" computers to all the schools in England. MI6 suspect that something might be up.
By the end of the film, Alex has escaped death at least thrice, discovered Sayle's evil plan, foiled Sayle's evil plan, in the process diving, driving, flying, horseriding and parachuting. Explosions feature throughout.
For me, this film was simply too absurd. The book had some pretty unbelievable parts, but they were overlookable. Not so here. Unless you are very thick-skinned about these things, you will find your self squinting disbelievingly at the screen, thinking "But that's just ridiculous!". Too many close calls, too many explosions, simply too silly
The main characters are not very well developed. Alex not played well at all - all his lines sound scripted, and even his insolent comments in the face of certain death at the hands (tentacles) of a giant jelly fish seem fake.
Harold Sayle is one of the most preposterous characters in any film I've seen. Sayle has long, wavy, slicked-back hair, and constantly wears sunglasses and smokes a cigar. Talk about stereotypical villain. A few of the lesser characters are more interesting, for instance his comrades at the SAS camp, and Jack his guardian, but overall the casting was bad.
The special effects were satistfactory, as they will be with any big budget blockbuster, but nothing out of the ordinary.
I'm not sure what the target audience for this film is, but my sister, aged twelve, thought that it was unrealistic as well. Maybe children below eleven or so may find it credible. For the rest of us, don't flee in terror if confronted with watching it, but don't waste money buying it.
I borrowed this DVD from my brother-in-law and I have to say I was sceptic, he told me it was a about a 14 year old spy. And that was enough to put me off. It sat on my shelve for a while I until one night when the telly was depressing and I was bored I finally opened the case and tried the film out.
(Most of these actors only have small roles)
its great to see a good english cast, some great actors here even if they only have a few lines.
A 14 year old boy Alex is living with his banker uncle in London but when his uncle dies he suspects fowl play then discovers that his uncle was a spy and now mi6 want him to take his uncles place and work for them. Alex must spy on the evil Darrius Sayle. A multimillionaire who is planning to despatch a deadly virus to all English school children through his newly invented computer the storm breaker in order to reek revenge on cruel children who taunted him as a child. Will Alex rise to the challenge or is it all too much for a school boy to handle. The plot is a lacks any real depth but is quite sweet and fun, great for kids.
"Death-defying car chases, jaw dropping gadgets and enough adrenaline to boot James Bond into a bin liner". This is what the front of the dvd case say's, im not sure id entirely agree but its got quite a lot of action really. It starts out with a motor bike chase and then there are car chases, helicopters, gun fights, and the young boy who plays Alex is involved in a lot of kung fu scenes so there is a lot of action but some of it is not very good, a badly filmed and you can see the sequence they been taught and it just doesn't quite fit together, but most of it is very good.
The car chase is great as is the way the bad guy hangs out of the helicopter and the roof top dangle but it is all forgotten when you see Darrius Sayles pet Jelly fish. It looks like my 5 year old glued some string together. It really is that bad.
It is a light hearted look at the life of a 14 year old spy it has stereotypical bad guys and good guys and the plot isn't magnificent but it is worth a watch but don't expect James Bond (although he does get some gadgets), I would say anyone aged 8 years 13 years will like it but 13 plus will start asking questions about the plot and stunts and realise its short falls.
They have left it open for a sequel but it is based on a book and there are about 5 or 6 other books so its obviously not the last we will see of Alex Rider.
It's rated PG
89 mins long
More info from www.alexrider.com
film makers commentary- exactly what it says
from page to screen - talks to Anthonly Horowitz about getting his book made into a film
stunts- shows how some of the stunts were done and many of them where real, not blue screened surprisingly so gives them a little ore credit.
The horse chase- shows how the horse chase through the centre of London was filmed.
VFX Creative Sayles Tower- shows how the large building was created for the film
Donnie yen- shows how the famous chorographer put together all the fight scenes.
Featurette over view- I didn't view this one
Teaser trailer- exactly what it says
What more can I say, its not the film of the year but if you get the chance give it a go, it not bad, some if it is cheesy but most of it is funny and light hearted.
Stormbreaker is the first in what is a probably planned series of films based around the smash hit teen novels of Anthony Horowitz (creator of the much maligned BBC Saturday night series Crime Traveller amongst others). The books are the spy genres equivalent of the Harry Potter books with a young Alex Rider finding out that all his life he was being trained to become a spy by his uncle. Alex Rider is a James Bond junior so to speak.
Stormbreaker has a first paragraph style start, or to put it in film terms a James Bond pre credit sequence start, it is clever enough to grab you and inform you at the same time. We are introduced to you Alex Rider (Alex Pettyfer) at school being asked about his uncle's job. He explains that his uncle has a boring job and is at a conference in Cornwall right at this moment. As he explains more the camera switches over to his uncle (Ewan McGregor) at his 'conference'. He is a spy himself and is trying to escape from his latest undercover assignment location, something he fails at as Alex tells us how much he loves his uncle.
The death of his uncle leads to Alex discovering not only the truth about his uncle but also about the training he had been receiving from him. Martial arts, mountain climbing, horse riding etc, things he thought were just his uncle spending time with him.
His uncle's boss with the aim of not only recruiting him for MI6 but also sending him undercover to complete his uncle's final mission, to investigate the activities of Darius Sayles and his Stormbreaker computers, also approaches him. MI6 are convinced that Sayles is up to something with his computers and what to find out what before they are released into the countries schools.
Eager to find out what happened to his uncle and who killed him Alex agrees and soon finds himself a schoolboy spy.
There is a lot to like about Stormbreaker, the opening sequence, some good action scenes, a pretty good plot and some great lines... Bill Nighy as the boss of MI6 has one of the best "We don't trust him" he says, "why not?", "Um... well we don't trust anyone, its what we do!" he replies.
Bill Nighy once again proves what a great character actor he is, he is very expressive and his actions and body language say far more about his character than any words could do.
Stephen Fry puts in a characteristically quirky performance as Alex's equivalent of James Bond's Q, a gadget builder works in a famous toy store. Almost worth seeing just for the scene with him in, as clichéd as it may be.
Someone else who stands out acting wise is Missi Pyle, she plays Nadia Vole, an enjoyably over the top comic villainess, the henchwoman of Mickey Rourke's Sayles.
There is a very amusing sequence where Alex is sent on a special forces training course. Mixing in the macho soldiers attitude with the exuberance of youth makes for a fun little section.
But then of course you have the bad points... Alex Rider is just so uninteresting a character that you just never really get any sort of liking of him as a person. While this doesn't matter during the set piece action scenes it does in the character development ones, this isn't helped by the fact that Pettyfer, who while looking good, is just not good enough and does detract from the film in places. Alicia Silverstone, as Alex's housekeeper, Jack, (he lives with his uncle) is not only wasted, apart from one hilarious fight scene with Missi Plye, but also seems to have lost her ability to act, surprisingly as I love her in Clueless.
The stunt double for Alex is obvious pretty much every time he appears, which gets rather annoying after a while but not as annoying as Mickey Rourke does as Sayles. There is a way of being over the top that is good and a way that just comes across as crap. Pyle is good, Rourke is crap... and he just looks so weird as well! He looks out of place, acts out of place and doesn't make a very worthwhile villain at all. So much so that Damien Lewis (Keane, Band of Brothers) as Gregorovich, the man who killed Alex's uncle, just blows him away in every seen he is in. Now there is a man who is threatening and scary without even trying. Just the way he speaks and moves just oozes villainery. I have to say I would love to see him play a proper Bond villain.
When it comes down to it Stormbreaker is a second rate James Bond rip off, that will be loved by the kids, the same way Bond is by adults, but it is straddling that line between being a worthwhile watch or not for adults, but then of course it isn't meant to be watched by them anyway. It doesn't hold enough to be a great film for adults but does have enough good bits in it that it would not be boring either. I did enjoy it but maybe not quite enough to be whole heartedly recommend it to others.
If there's one thing you can bank on during a British summer, it's torrential rain. At least, that's how I felt on a particularly rainy day when on holiday in Great Yarmouth earlier this year. At least it was an excuse to slope off and watch a movie and with "Stormbreaker" getting good reviews, off we toddled to sit in comfort as the rain poured down outside. Teen spy movies have been in fashion in recent years with "Malcolm in the Middle" star, Frankie Muniz satiating an army of pre-pubescent James Bond fans' appetites with gadget packed shenanigans as "Agent Cody Banks" to compliment the "Spy Kid" franchise so successfully driven by Robert Rodriguez. I guess this is a genre that appeals across a whole cross-section of ages and tastes and with a PG rating and an accessible 93-minute run time, this was a good family show available to see during the day.
When teenager Alex Rider's (Alex Pettyfer) bank manager uncle (Ewan McGregor) is killed by another spy in a car crash, it soon becomes clear that he was secretly a superspy doing his bit for England and her national security. As the subsequent funeral unfolds, Alex is introduced to some strange characters that look nothing like stereotypical bank employees. Offered a job as an MI6 operative by the idiosyncratic, Mr. Blunt (Bill Nighy), Alex initially declines but as it dawns on him more and more that his uncle had been grooming him for spydom through his various hobbies (scuba diving, sharpshooting, martial arts), he finally relents with the help of an offer of a permanent visa for his legal guardian who is an illegal immigrant in the country. Having undergone his army training and passed with flying colours, his mission is to infiltrate the empire of Darrius Sayle (Micky Rourke) and find out what Sayles real plans are in donating 70,000 state of the art computers in the newly created Stormbreaker network to the schools of England. MI6 suspect Sayle of having a hidden agenda and it's up to the teen spy, Alex to unravel the plot.
There's an awful lot that works well with "Stormbreaker". First of all, the leads are nicely played by Alex Pettyfer and Alicia Silverstone as Jack Starbright. Pettyfer is a newcomer to the movie circuit with only a TV adaptation of "Tom Brown's Schooldays" to his name and it would have been easy to slip into something uber camp when playing a role like this. He manages to avoid that trap looking serious for the most part and convincingly dynamic when needed for the set pieces. The sequence early on in the movie where he pursues a truck that takes his uncles car away, peddling furiously on his racer into a breakers yard only to be cornered by the workers who he dispatches with some nifty martial arts is both imaginative and fresh. Silverstone never has to get out of second gear to play her role as Rider's guardian but she does add a welcome touch of glamour to proceedings.
As for the rest of the cast, then it's a role call of mainly British glitterati with Ewan McGregor, Bill Nighy, Stephen Fry and Robbie Coltrane all getting parts of some description. The menace in the movie comes from Mickey Rourke as Darrius Sayle although Rourke did look decidedly old in the movie and definitely got most of the camp lines that were going as well as a rather childish modus operandi. There's plenty of humour in the movie too with Nighy getting to deliver some dead pan, one-liners; Fry doing a passable impersonation of "Q" from the Bond movies doused in his customary caustic wit whilst Robbie Coltrane plays an implausible and slightly giddy Prime Minister. For an action movie, the film manages to adopt a very British feel to the whole affair. This may come from the UK locations used to film with some glorious shots of the London skyline as well as the Isle of Man being passed off as Southern English moors. Alternatively, it could be the British eccentricity that belies the plot that could have amounted to the same result.
There are some silly aspects that detract from the movie's credibility at times. The Portuguese Man-O-War in Sayle's tank looks about as terrifying as a stray goldfish at a fairground and Missi Pyle as Nadia Vole - Sayles henchwoman - looks like an outcast from Allo Allo. She really couldnt look and sound more like a Nazi Helga if she tried. Rourke is never entirely convincing as the mixed up Sayle and there is an ever-present feel of low budget, British production about the whole movie. Moreover, the characters are never really developed to any large extent as a result of the non-stop action sequences but then this is hardly a cranial affair with a finale thats extended for too long.
Amongst all of the action, Geoffrey Sax does a reasonable job of bringing a mainly family movie to life with an almost cartoonish feel to proceedings for the most part, brought to physical reality at one point during a fight scene that plays out alongside cartoon violence on TV. With fast-paced editing actually allowing the audience a clear view of what's happening, the director takes his recent work on White Noise and turns the practical necessity of a movie like Stormbreaker into a breakneck reality. Saxs imagination makes for inspired sets at times, none more so than the photo booth that Rider encounters on his way to finding the headquarters of MI6.
Not that Ive read any but the movie is inspired by the Anthony Horowitz books about Alex Rider and his adventures and Ive read that the movie does a good job of recreating the feel of the teen-spy concept established in Horowitzs work. The movie features some suitably cool music tracks just in case youd missed the fact that this was a celebration of the powers of teendom including I Predict A Riot by Kaiser Chiefs, "Feel Good Inc." by Gorillaz and "Ready Steady Go" by Paul Oakenfold
All in all, I really enjoyed Stormbreaker. Its innocent enough with plenty of fun to drive the mood along as well as having lots of British panorama to admire as a setting for all that US-British acting talent that makes the movie. I cant help thinking that this is just the start of yet another spy movie franchise. My lovely wife and two children enjoyed the diversion from the rain outside and we were glad wed taken the chance to go and see the movie. In fact, our very own storm breaker.
Thoroughly recommended for teen/family viewing with 4 stars.
Thanks for the read