Stormbreaker (film)

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British release poster
Directed by Geoffrey Sax
Produced by
Screenplay by Anthony Horowitz
Based on Stormbreaker 
by Anthony Horowitz
Music by Alan Parker
Cinematography Chris Seager
Edited by Andrew MacRitchie
Distributed by
Release dates
  • 21 July 2006 (2006-07-21)
Running time
93 minutes[1]
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
  • Germany
Language English
Budget $40 million[2]
Box office $20.7–23.9 million[2][3]

Stormbreaker is a 2006 British action spy film based on Anthony Horowitz's novel of the same name, the first novel in the Alex Rider series and stars Alex Pettyfer in the title role. The film also stars Mickey Rourke, Bill Nighy, Sophie Okenedo, Alicia Silverstone, Sarah Bolger, Stephen Fry and Ewan McGregor. 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 not renew the visa and deport his babysitter (now legal guardian) Jack. Alex is then sent to a military training camp near Credenhill, the home of the Special Air Service. At first, his fellow trainees look down on him because of his age, but he soon gains their respect for his capabilities.

He sets off on his first mission, aided by gadgets from Smithers. The 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 Sayle himself 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 modified version of the smallpox virus which, upon activation in the Stormbreaker release, 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 & 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) before rescuing Alex. Yassen then tells Alex that Sayle had become an embarrassment to his employers, and that Alex should forget about him, but 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 realizes that it's not the end.



The United States poster showing the change of title from Stormbreaker to Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker.

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.[4]

In 2005, actor Alex Pettyfer was cast as Alex Rider. He was picked out of 500 hopefuls who auditioned for the role.[5] 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.[6]

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.[7] 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.[8] 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 multimillion-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.


Box office[edit]

The film opened in 221 theaters in North America and grossed $215,177, with an average of $973 per theater and ranking #27. The film ultimately earned $677,646 in the United States and $23,260,224 internationally for a total of $23,937,870 on an estimated budget of $40 million.[3] The Numbers reported a worldwide gross of $20.7 million.[2]

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, the film has a score of 34% based on 67 reviews with an average rating of 4.7 out of 10. The critical consensus states "Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker is strictly children's fare, as it lacks originality, excitement, and believabiltity."[9] The film also has a score of 42 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 20 critics indicating "mixed or average reviews."[10]

BBC critic Neil Smith gave the film three out of five stars but criticised the "unsubtle turns" from both Bill Nighy and Stephen Fry.[11] The Hollywood Reporter branded the film as "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".[12] 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."[13]'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."[14]

Cancelled sequels[edit]

Hopes and expectations for a box office-busting franchise were so high that Horowitz was commissioned to start writing the screenplay for the adaption of the second novel, Point Blanc, even before Stormbreaker was released. Pettyfer was signed to play Alex Rider in all the sequels and Horowitz gave several interviews where he confidently stated that Alex Rider would become the next iconic movie character. However the film's poor box office performance meant that plans for a franchise were dropped. The film was a rather embarrassing failure for Horowitz, who later admitted the film was a "mistake". In an interview in 2009, Horowitz revealed he had scrapped the idea to make Point Blanc and disclosed that there are no plans for any more Alex Rider films as the books "do not translate well to the big screen".[15][16]


  1. ^ "STORMBREAKER (PG)". British Board of Film Classification. 2006-06-23. Retrieved 2012-06-30. 
  2. ^ a b c "Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker". The Numbers. Retrieved March 4, 2015. 
  3. ^ a b "Alex Rider:Operation Stormbreaker". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2015-03-04. 
  4. ^ "Stormbreaker filming finishes". BBC News Online. 2005-08-14. Retrieved 2007-05-22. 
  5. ^ Maddocks, Fiona (2006-07-20). "Calm amid the storm". The Scotsman. Retrieved 2007-05-22. 
  6. ^ Lyall, Sarah (2006-07-18). "He Was a Teenage Spy, Surrounded by Treacherous Adults". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-05-22. 
  7. ^ "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. 
  8. ^ Carr, Kevin. "An Interview with Anthony Horowitz". 7(M) Pictures. Retrieved 2007-05-22. 
  9. ^ "Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2008-07-09. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ Smith, Neil (2006-07-21). "Stormbreaker (2006)". BBC Films. Retrieved 22 May 2007. 
  12. ^ Bennett, Ray (2006-07-26). "Stormbreaker". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 2007-09-30. Retrieved 2007-05-22. 
  13. ^ Tyler, Josh (2006-09-27). "Stormbreaker". Cinema Blend. Retrieved 2008-04-01. 
  14. ^ Morris, Wesley (2006-10-13). "'Stormbreaker' is kid lit without the pages". Retrieved 2008-04-01. 
  15. ^
  16. ^

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