British release poster
|Directed by||Geoffrey Sax|
|Screenplay by||Anthony Horowitz|
by Anthony Horowitz
|Music by||Alan Parker|
|Edited by||Andrew MacRitchie|
|93 minutes |
Stormbreaker is a 2006 spy film based on Anthony Horowitz's novel of the same name, the first novel in the Alex Rider series. It features newcomer Alex Pettyfer as the teenage spy alongside actors Mickey Rourke and Bill Nighy. In the U.S., the film was promotionally named Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker. The film was intended to be the first of a series of Alex Rider films, but no further films have been made since due to poor box office returns.
Alex Rider is a 14-year-old schoolboy who lives with his uncle Ian and their housekeeper Jack Starbright. Ian is supposedly a bank manager and is, much to Alex's regret, often away from home. One day, Alex is told that his uncle has died in a car crash, but quickly discovers that his uncle was in fact a spy working for MI6 and that he was killed by the assassin, Yassen Gregorovich.
He is then recruited by his uncle's former employers, Alan Blunt and Mrs. Jones of the Special Operations Division of MI6, who explain to Alex that his uncle has been training him as a spy; Alex initially refuses to cooperate but agrees when they threaten to prosecute then deport Jack (now his guardian) for being an illegal immigrant. Alex is then sent to the Special Forces training camp in the Brecon Beacons, the home of the Special Air Service. At first, his fellow trainees look down on him because of his age, but he soon gains respect for his capabilities.
He sets off on his first mission, aided by gadgets from Smithers. American billionaire Darrius Sayle is donating free high-powered computer systems codenamed Stormbreaker to every school in the United Kingdom. MI6 are suspicious of his seemingly generous plans and send Alex undercover as a competition winner to investigate. There, he meets the man himself, Sayle and his two accomplices, Mr. Grin and Nadia Vole and is shown the Stormbreaker computer in action. Later, while Alex is having dinner with Sayle, the suspicious Vole steals Alex's phone and tracks the SIM card to his house in Chelsea. She goes there and finds Alex's true identity; while there, she is disturbed by and consequently fights Jack. Despite being outclassed, Jack wins with the help of a blowfish, leaving Nadia to flee the scene. Still troubled by the events, Alex sneaks out of his bedroom window to observe a midnight delivery of mysterious containers to Sayle's lair.
The next day, Alex finds himself in trouble when his cover is blown. After trying to escape from the facility, he is captured and during a villain-esque monologue, Sayle explains his true reasons behind Stormbreaker - each system contains a deadly virus which, upon activation, will kill all of the country's schoolchildren. Sayle leaves Alex tied up and departs for the London Science Museum. Nadia drops Alex into a water-tank to be killed by a giant Portuguese Man o' War, but he escapes using the metal-disintegrating spot cream supplied by Smithers, rupturing the tank and killing Nadia when the jellyfish hits her. Alex then hitches a ride on a Mil Mi-8 helicopter piloted by Mr. Grin, using a sodium pentothal arrow to gain Mr. Grin's obedience. Alex parachutes out of the helicopter and lands just as the Prime Minister is about to press the button which will activate the computers. Alex uses a rifle to shoot the podium, which destroys the button, and ruins Sayle's plan.
Sayle is furious and leaves to carry out his back-up plan, and Alex, with the help of school friend Sabina Pleasure pursues Sayle through the streets of London. Fifty floors up on one of Sayle's skyscrapers, Alex reaches him and unplugs his backup transmitter. Sayle chases him out onto the roof and pushes both Alex and Sabina off the roof, leaving them hanging by a dislodged cable. Unexpectedly, Yassen arrives in a helicopter and kills Sayle (in the same manner he did Ian), causing him to fall from the roof of the tower, before rescuing Alex. Yassen then tells Alex that Sayle had become an embarrassment to his employers, and that Alex should forget about him. Alex refuses, saying that the killing of Ian means they are still enemies.
Alex returns to school; he and Sabina are talking about what happened and he says that it will never happen again. The film ends with someone observing Alex from a distance. He notices it and realises that it is not the end.
- Alex Pettyfer as Alex Rider
- Mickey Rourke as Darrius Sayle
- Alicia Silverstone as Jack Starbright
- Bill Nighy as Alan Blunt
- Sophie Okonedo as Mrs. Jones
- Damian Lewis as Yassen Gregorovich
- Missi Pyle as Nadia Vole
- Stephen Fry as Smithers
- Sarah Bolger as Sabina Pleasure
- Andy Serkis as Mr. Grin
- Ashley Walters as Wolf
- Ewan McGregor as Ian Rider
- Robbie Coltrane as the Prime Minister
- Jimmy Carr as John Crawford
Author Anthony Horowitz, already an established and prolific screenwriter in British television, wrote the screenplay and worked very closely throughout the film's production with director Geoffrey Sax and producers Marc and Peter Samuelson. The Weinstein Company acquired the North American rights to the film, which was filmed in summer 2005 with six weeks on the Isle of Man and a further six weeks in London. Some of the scenes of the school were filmed in the Grey Coat Hospital and Ballakermeen High School, Douglas, Isle of Man.
In 2005, actor Alex Pettyfer was cast as Alex Rider. He was picked out of 500 hopefuls who auditioned for the role. Pettyfer was originally offered a role in the then-upcoming film Eragon but turned it down, noting that he preferred Stormbreaker because it would be filmed nearer home while Eragon would film in the Czech Republic.
In June 2006, the producers signed a deal with Nintendo that made the Nintendo DS a prominent feature in the film, much like the Power Glove in The Wizard. This is an upgrade from the Game Boy Color that Alex used in the novel version. In addition to the Nintendo marketing in the film, Alex's mobile phone is a Nokia 7710 and he uses a sodium pentothal pen to get to London, not a gun.
In August 2006, the film was retitled Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker for North American release. A new poster (shown right) and trailer were released along with the announcement. It was also revealed that the US premiere would take place on the Intrepid aircraft carrier at the Hudson River, New York.
The name of the villain also changed from Herod Sayle to Darrius Sayle, with his nationality switched from Lebanese (Egyptian in the US version of the novel) to American. This was because Mickey Rourke was already in talks to take on the role, so Horowitz adapted the character to suit him. Throughout the film Mickey Rourke's dog can be seen. It can also be seen on the US film poster.
Stormbreaker was supposed to kick-start an Alex Rider film franchise, adapting all the books in the series to the big screen, in much the same vein as the Harry Potter film series. Horowitz and producer Marc Samuelson hoped to make Alex Rider the next multi-million dollar film series. The film had a very high-profile marketing campaign, with camera crews from the BBC and ITV among others visiting the set and the production team, Stormbreaker was one of the most hyped films released that year. A large amount of merchandise was produced to coincide with the premiere, including tie-in books featuring interviews with the cast and detailing the production and making of the film.
Critical reaction to Stormbreaker was mostly mixed to average; on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 33% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 66 reviews, with the consensus that the film was "strictly children's fare, as it lacks originality, excitement, and believability".
BBC critic Neil Smith gave the film three out of five stars but criticised the "unsubtle turns" from both Bill Nighy and Stephen Fry. The Hollywood Reporter branded the film as a "a lame and disappointing affair". Although likening it to both the Harry Potter and James Bond series, reviewer Ray Bennett said the film "lacks any kind of suspense" due to the script. He ended saying that Stormbreaker was unlikely to have a "license to kill at the box-office".
Cinema Blend editor-in-chief Josh Tyler gave the film two and a half stars out of five, and said that, "Most of the problems with Stormbreaker all boil down to believability." Boston.com 's reporter Wesley Morris also gave Stormbreaker two stars out of five, and said that "Geoffrey Sax's filmmaking holds few surprises... but it's swift and competent, despite too many shots of cars on roads that bloat the running time."
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- Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker at Box Office Mojo
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- Maddocks, Fiona (2006-07-20). "Calm amid the storm". The Scotsman. Retrieved 2007-05-22.
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- "The Nintendo DS - Heading to a theater near you!". The Nintendo DS - Heading to a theater near you!. Go Nintendo. 2006-06-27. Retrieved 2007-05-22.
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- Bennett, Ray (2006-07-26). "Stormbreaker". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 2007-09-30. Retrieved 2007-05-22.
- Tyler, Josh (2006-09-27). "Stormbreaker". Cinema Blend. Retrieved 2008-04-01.
- Morris, Wesley (2006-10-13). "'Stormbreaker' is kid lit without the pages". Boston.com. Retrieved 2008-04-01.
- Archived June 17, 2008 at the Wayback Machine
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- Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker at AllMovie
- Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker at Box Office Mojo
- Stormbreaker (Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker) at Rotten Tomatoes
- Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker at Metacritic