Stormbreaker - Review
Review by Jack Foley
THE name’s Rider, Alex Rider and while this young James Bond’s exploits may leave younger fans shaken, adults might not feel quite so stirred.
Based upon the ultra-successful novels by Anthony Horowitz, Stormbreaker could well become a franchise to rival the Harry Potter series if it plays its cards right. But on the evidence of his first outing, the jury is very much out.
Director Geoffrey Sax gives it his best shot, courtesy of a cracking ensemble cast and some smart set pieces, but the film feels hopelessly uneven given its uneasy mix of juvenile humour and potentially more serious situations.
Leading man, Alex Pettyfer, also upsets the flow, acquitting himself capably enough during the action sequences but emerging as way too bland to really convince as a charismatic superspy in waiting.
The film picks up energetically enough as the uncle/guardian (Ewan McGregor) of Alex Rider (Pettyfer) is killed mid-mission while investigating the shady affairs of evil businessman Darrius Sayle (Mickey Rourke).
Alex is subsequently recruited by two government spooks (Billy Nighy and Sophie Okonedo) to finish the job and infiltrate Sayle’s network, posing as a super-nerd to get the lowdown on a potentially lethal new computer system.
In so doing, the young agent uncovers a plot to assassinate the Prime Minister (Robbie Coltrane), while underlining his credentials as a future spy in the making.
But while young fans of Horowitz’s novels may well be hooked by Stormbreaker’s energetic style, given the talent that’s been assembled older viewers may feel somewhat cheated.
Many of the established stars seem content to ham it up rather than act, which contributes to the sloppy tone, while Rourke lacks any real menace as the villain and fails to present a worthy adversary.
For every set piece that works (such as a climactic chase through the streets of London involving a Mini and some horses), there are several that don’t, including one ill-judged confrontation between Missi Pyle and Alicia Silverstone that’s juxtaposed with the action taking place in a cartoon.
Even some of the humour feels strained and obvious, particularly in the way that it parodies 007 and Austin Powers while virtually winking at the older audience.
Hence, the lighter side of the film is completely at odds with the more serious themes it puts forward, such as the loss of father figures and the effects of bullying. There’s simply no consistency.
On the plus side, Sax keeps things moving at a lively pace and makes good use of his London locations. And there are some nice supporting performances from the likes of Nighy (excellent as ever), Stephen Fry (as a glib Q equivalent) and Damien Lewis (as an assassin).
An open ending also suggests there’s plenty of room for improvement should the box office set up the possibility of a franchise.
It’s just that for all its hard work and endeavour, Stormbreaker doesn’t really blow you away as impressively as it should.
Running time: 104 minutes