Alex Rider's guardian is killed in mysterious circumstances, leaving him to be forcibly recruited into MI6. After a gruelling training course, Alex is sent on his first mission - up against ruthless businessman Darius Sayle.
This energetic home-grown adventure, based on the first of Anthony Horowitz’s sextet of teen novels, has an easy pitch: baby Bond, juvenile Jack Bauer, Harry Potter goes Harry Palmer… Thus right there in its creative DNA is a huge ask. Where Master Potter is a pawn in bigger games, Alex Rider actively leaps into harm’s way when, as we’re constantly reminded, he’s only 14 years old. Horowitz’s screenplay never quite overcomes the uncomfortable suggestion that Rider is being utilised as an underage soldier.
Also, with its wet-dream scenario — parentless teen becomes a secret agent and has Alicia Silverstone as his home-help — a lot depends on Alex Pettyfer to channel audience aspirations. But, to quote Derek Zoolander, he’s “really, really, ridiculously good-looking”. The type — total babe magnet — that real teenage boys — moody, spotty — tend to consider a “git”. It’s hard to warm to such a hero. A shame, because Geoffrey Sax makes a good fist of the visuals, mustering plenty of bonkers sets, vehicular action and new-fangled gizmos. A squad of reliable Brits give it a tickle of Austin Powers parody, while one unreliable American gives it next to nothing. Are we to be thankful that leather-faced Mickey Rourke has merely turned up? He seems to think so.
It could be another Harry Potter. However, it could also be another Thunderbirds. But the cast assembled gives us hope, so fingers crossed for a new Brit franchise please.