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Brandon Judell

"Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker:"
A James Bond for Virgins
Alex Pettyfer. Photographs by Liam Daniel

By Brandon Judell

If in 20 or 30 years, Daniel Craig has retired from playing Ian Fleming's stalwart secret agent, the series' producers need look no further than Alex Pettyfer as their new man. This British youth, who essays the 14-year-old Alex Rider here, has the charisma, the moves, and the looks to play Mr. Bond. He also can act which is much more than several actors who were consigned the role could do (e.g. Roger Moore).

Alex Rider, by the way, is the hero of several bestselling action books that have won over the hearts of millions of global preteen fans. According to Publishers Weekly, the first five books in the series by Andy Horowitz, "which debuted in the U.S. in 2001 with Stormbreaker, have sold 4.4 million copies in this country alone and more than nine million worldwide."

Now we have a character-actor-laden film version of the first novel that started this whole shebang. The picture consists of a lot of karate cuts, guileful gadgets, damfoolish adults, black comedy, giant jellyfish, young love, and horse rides.

The film, which is clearly not meant for adults, will nonetheless entertain those who wind up shepherding their offspring to this feature.

Why? For one, the plot is rather clever and nicely mean-spirited. American billionaire Darrius Sayle (a horrendously odd-looking Mickey Rourke) is donating thousands of high-end, 3-D, trippy computers to Britain's schools. But why? M16, England's answer to the CIA, doesn't trust the man. The agency feels there's something fishy about this philanthropic act.

In fact, their best agent (Ewan McGregor) has just been murdered looking into this affair. So why not hire Alex Rider, the agent's nephew, to replace him?

Thanks to the sincere take on the role by Pettyfer, a former child model, you really do care about Alex. The lad is breathtakingly talented.

Sadly, director Geoffrey Sax, who helmed the reprehensible box-office hit, White Noise with Michael Keaton, allows almost everyone else in the cast to ham up their performances, except for those who can barely perform at all here (e.g. Rourke and Alicia Silverstone). A little restraint by all would certainly have expanded the film's box office potential.

Yet, "Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker" will still make you smile and cheer for the hero every now and then. As for pre-Bar Mitzvah age boys, this film is a must-see.

Director: Geoffrey Sax
Costume Designer: John Bloomfield
Casting Director: Sarah Bird
Cast: Alex Pettyfer, Sarah Bolger, Robbie Coltrane, Stephen Fry, Damian Lewis, Ewan McGregor, Alicia Silverstone, Andy Serkis


Copyright © Brandon Judell 2006

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