Making the Grades
It's time for Cody Banks to step aside and for the Spy Kids to have a serious think about heading back to school and pursuing a real career now that UK teen hero Alex Rider has come to town. Suave, cool and sophisticated (in fact, a little too much so for supposedly being only 14!), this blonde adolescent gets pulled into the world of secret service activities after his uncle Ian (Ewan McGregor), whom Alex (Alex Pettyfer) didn't know was a spy, is killed while on a mission.
Yet for years Uncle Ian -- who was also the boy's guardian -- was preparing his charge for a life of covert activity. It's only now, after being conscripted by hard-nosed secret service supervisors Alan Blunt (Bill Nighy) and Mrs. Jones (Sophie Okonedo) that Alex discovers his future has been mapped out for him. The lad is further compelled to comply after these government bosses tell him his nanny's (Alicia Silverstone) visa has long expired and that she will be deported... unless he cooperates.
On his first mission, he must infiltrate the laboratory of Darrius Sayle (Mickey Rourke), maker of an incredibly powerful computer called The Stormbreaker. Not known for his generosity, Sayle is suddenly playing philanthropist after he announces that thousands of his pricy PCs will be handed out to schools around the country. Suspicious that the businessman's motives may be evil, the young sleuth sets out to discover what's really going on.
For parents who tire of searching for action movies suitable for young teens, Stormbreaker may fill the list of traits your kids are looking for. Although the script isn't particularly intelligent, its propensity for having the hero barge into dangerous circumstances for no good reason does provide ample opportunity for him to engage in all forms of conflict with bad guys, resulting in the expected action sequences.
Parents may be surprised however, by the intensity of some of the depicted violence, especially considering the film's US PG-rating. A man with two handguns (pointed straight into the camera) assassinates Alex's uncle in the opening sequence. We don't see the impact, but it's a vivid scene none-the-less. A similar episode is repeated later in the film, as well as the shooting death of another background character in consequence for making a simple mistake. Thankfully, language is very clean and there is no sexual content -- as this junior Bond isn't even provided with a love interest.
Featuring a passel of famous UK faces and some well-orchestrated stunts that include a cool bicycle chase (I'm left wondering who gets more screen time -- Alex Pettyfer or his stunt double), this film will likely leave its intended audience pleased. Still, the portrayal of senseless killings may have families with secret agent wannabes proceeding cautiously when considering undertaking this "operation."
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker.
Does your perception of media violence change when you see a murder in a movie targeted at kids versus one made for adults? Was it necessary for these elements to be included in this movie? How could the writers have “written off” Alex’s uncle without having him shot?