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Film / Stormbreaker

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Stormbreaker (titled Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker in the U.S.) is a 2006 spy action film directed by Geoffrey Sax and based on the first installment of Anthony Horowitz's Alex Rider young adult novel series, with Alex Pettyfer starring as the title character.

The film follows Alex, a teenage boy recruited by MI6 after his uncle Ian (Ewan McGregor) — who claimed to him that he was a bank manager but is actually a secret agent — is killed in action. He is sent to investigate the distribution of free megacomputers codenamed Stormbreaker to schools across Britain by billionaire Darrius Sayle (Mickey Rourke), who may have less-than-amiable motivations.

Stormbreaker was intended to be the first in a series of Alex Rider films and was extensively promoted with the hopes of kicking off the next Harry Potter, with Horowitz even writing a screenplay for the next book in the series, Point Blanc, before the film came out. However, its poor critical and commercial performance led to the series being cancelled.

Horowitz eventually came to regret his overconfidence in the idea and admitted that the movie was a "mistake", but has also attributed at least some of the film's failure to its lack of sufficient distribution in America, namely not getting a wide release. He would also state that since he believes the novels don't translate well to a cinematic format, he does not foresee any plans of future films.

The possibilities granted by a television format, however, did leave room to pick things up, and a second adaptation of the novels now exists in the Alex Rider programme, which premiered in 2020.


  • Adaptation Name Change: MI6 agent John Crawford was called Crawley in the novel, but the filmmakers were contacted by the real MI6 asking them not to use the name "Crawley".
  • Adaptational Badass: Jack in the film is a skilled combatant who manages to fight off Nadia. In the books she's largely a Non-Action Guy.
  • Adaptational Early Appearance: The film features the character of Sabina Pleasure as Alex's school crush, even though in the novels she doesn't appear until the third one ("Skeleton Key"). This was obviously to play on the teen romance arc, because sequels where she could have turned up were originally planned.
  • Adaptational Intelligence: In the book, Sayle specifically programs the virus so that it can only be activated by the computer at the Science Museum, which is explained as being down to his fanatical insistence that the Prime Minister has to be personally responsible for it. Here, he has a backup transmitter in case anything goes wrong, although he still ultimately fails.
  • Adaptational Nationality: In the book, the villain is from Lebanon (or Egypt in the US edition) and his name is Herod Sayle. In the film, he is an American named Darrius Sayle.
  • All the Good Men Are Gay: Jack laments this is one of the problems with living in England, in that every good-looking man is either gay or married. (Other than Alex, she says quickly, though he's only fourteen.)
  • Amusing Injuries: Jack wins the fight against Nadia (despite being outclassed) when Nadia impales her hand on the fugu fish. Also, her getting slammed with the fridge door earlier in the same scene. The nasty-looking bruise from the former is seen on her hand in a later scene.
  • Artistic License Chemistry: Smithers gives Alex a Sodium Pentathol dart that will make his victim obey his every command. Sodium Pentathol makes the subject less inhibited and is therefore used as a Truth Serum, but even then it is a highly unreliable one. The notion it could effectively be used as a Mind Control device is extremely far-fetched. This was part of the adaptation to a more family-friendly format — in the book Alex just forces Mr Grin to fly him to London by holding him at gunpoint.
  • Asian Cleaver Fever: There's a bit with an American woman making sushi, where she dresses up in a martial-arts costume, swings knives around in a ridiculously dramatic way, and starts speaking Japanese.
  • Avoid the Dreaded G Rating: Inverted, the film got a PG rating in the UK and was Lighter and Softer than the book, much to Anthony Horowitz chagrin.
  • Badass on Paper: Jack is this during the Cat Fight with Nadia, landing a few hits on her and seriously injuring her with the fugu fish.
  • Bathroom Search Excuse: When Alex slips away to look around the Stormbreaker facility, he's caught by Nadia Vole trying to get through a sealed door, and claims he thought the bathroom might be through there. This incident makes her suspect that he's more than he seems.
  • Big Red Button: The Stormbreaker computers are meant to be activated with one of these at the Science Museum.
  • Big Sister Instinct: Jack has this for Alex. After having looked after him for nine years, it's understandable.
  • Bookends: Yassen Gregorovitch kills two men while hanging upside down from a helicopter: Ian Rider at the start, and Sayle at the end.
  • Call-Back: Yassen kills Sayle the same way he killed Ian: shooting at him with duel-wielded pistols, upside down, hanging from a wire attached to a helicopter.
  • Cat Fight: Between Jack and Nadia when the latter shows up at Alex's house after finding his phone and thus, Alex's true identity.
  • Chekhov's Armoury: All of Alex's gadgets. It seems the communication device is not used, but evidently Alex uses it offscreen to warn MI6 of the involvement of Yassen Gregorovitch in Sayle's plan.
  • Chekhov's Army: The soldiers in the Science Museum. They were the same ones Alex was with in K Unit in the Brecon Beacons..
  • Chekhov's Gun: A majority of the spy tools Alex is given are this basically as default. Also, the fugu fish, Sayle's jellyfish, and the manual override plan Alex overhears being talked about.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Yassen Gregorovitch. See Deus ex Machina below.
    • Sabina. First seen among the crowd of schoolchildren in the opening scene and after school, and comes back at the end when Alex enlists her help in stopping Sayle, which she does first by riding with him to Sayle Tower and stopping Sayle from shooting Alex on the roof.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Alex's skills in rifle shooting, abseiling and martial arts come in handy.
  • Cool Car: Ian Rider's BMW Z4 could qualify. Before its death courtesy of the crusher.
    • As could the Hummer used by Nadia.
  • Covers Always Lie: Sayle is holding a small dog in the US poster which never appears in the film.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Jack wins the Cat Fight with Nadia by causing Nadia to impale her hand on the fugu fish.
    • In Sayle Tower, Alex bows to the security guard just to carry out a Groin Attack. Sabina later does the same thing.
  • Dark Is Evil: The Sayle Enterprises guards wear black and drive black vehicles (cars, bikes, helicopters and speedboats). While they (but not Gregorovitch) may be Punch-Clock Villains, Sayle himself is definitely evil.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Alex manages to be this even when having knives thrown at him.
    Alex: Well, if this is how you treat the winner, I sure would hate to see what happened to the runner-up.
  • Description Cut: Once or twice during Alex's story at the start of the film.
    Alex: My uncle, he's never gonna set the world on fire because he's got a real boring job.
    Cut to him on a motorbike blazing out of the Sayle Enterprises factory ahead of an explosion.
  • Deus ex Machina: As Sayle is about to kill Alex, Yassen appears and kills him first.
  • Disney Villain Death: Sayle, even though his fall occurred after being shot by Yassen, meaning he was already dead.
  • The Door Slams You: Jack does this to Nadia with the fridge door during their fight. On the TV immediately after that happens, a cartoon cat's head appropriately erupts with a large cartoon bump.
  • Electric Jellyfish: Alex gets locked in a water tank with a Portuguese Man o' War by Nadia, but by using metal-disintegrating zit cream he is able to break the tank and perhaps inadvertently kill Nadia when the jellyfish lands on top of her.
  • Evil Is Petty: Sayle is revealed to be this when he revealed he was bullied as a child, which was his whole motivation for his Evil Plan in the first place.
  • Evil Laugh: Nadia starts one when the zit cream Alex uses to try and free himself from the jellyfish tank doesn't seem to work. It becomes an Oh, Crap! seconds later when the glass smashes and the jellyfish lands on her.
  • Foreshadowing: According to Mrs Jones, in Ian Rider's last message to MI6, he mentioned a virus. It was assumed to be a computer virus, but it turned out to be the genetically-modified R-5.
    • Nadia's suspicious look at Alex in the rear-view mirror in the Hummer before they arrive at the plant in Cornwall. She later reveals she suspected him from the moment he arrived. She wasn't lying.
    • When we first see Sayle, he mentions that if you came into contact with ther Portuguese Man o' War jellyfish, you'd die a very memorable death. Alex himself nearly does when he is thrown into the tank with it, but it is Nadia who ends up killed by the jellyfish after Alex uses the zit cream to break free from the tank.
    • Immediately after the aforementioned line, Sayle turns to Alex and says, "You're never too young to die." His Evil Plan involves the murder of schoolchildren across the country, as well as coming very close to killing Alex himself on two occasions later.
  • Freudian Excuse: Sayle's motivation for his Evil Plan is that he was bullied a lot as a child.
    • Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse: Alex says in disgust that, like Sayle, lots of people are bullied in childhood, but they don't use it as an excuse for psychopathic behaviour as an adult.
  • Freudian Slip: The Prime Minister introduces Sayle at the Science Museum as "Darius Smell", which is what he called him when they were both at school. He quickly corrects himself.
  • Gory Discretion Shot:
    • The film starts with Ian Rider being shot and killed by Yassen Gregorovitch, but we only see it from Ian's perspective, with Yassen shooting at the screen, "shattering" it, after which the film's title is displayed.
    • The mobile office that Alex sent down the hill goes over the edge of a cliff and into a lake, but before it lands in the water, it abruptly cuts to a sugar cube landing in a cup in Blunt's office.
    • We only hear the sound of Sayle hitting the ground, but judging by reactions, it's not a pretty sight.
  • Groin Attack: Twice, to the security guard in Sayle Tower who is tasked to attack anyone trying to enter the premises.
    • Subverted. One almost happens to Alex when he calls Sayle a psychopath. Mr Grin hurls a knife at him and it just misses his crotch. Alex says it was a good shot. Sayle disagrees, saying it was a near miss.
  • Guns Akimbo: Gregorovitch's special maneuver in disposing his assassination targets is hanging upside down from a helicopter and shooting them with two pistols.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Nadia ends up getting killed by the same jellyfish that she was trying to kill Alex with.
  • Hooked Up Afterwards: Implied to be the case with Alex and Sabina in the final scene.
  • Improvised Weapon: Jack uses a few of these in her fight with Nadia, and so does Nadia. Kitchen items, a sculpture, a fridge door, the coffee table, and finally, the fugu fish. That last one doubles as a Chekhov's Gun.
  • Just in Time: As the countdown is occurring for the Stormbreaker computers to be activated, Alex is parachuting down to the Science Museum. He crashes through the roof just as it ends, which stops the Prime Minister from pressing the button.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • When K Unit fails the night combat exercise in the Brecon Beacons, the soldier that comes up to them kicks muddy water in Wolf's face.
    • The soldiers in the mobile office do this to Alex behind his back, saying that at fourteen, he should probably "get back to his mummy" (not knowing he's an orphan), and probably needs a nappy change.
    • Throwing Alex into a jellyfish tank wasn't enough for Nadia. She had to take pictures of him struggling while he was in there.
  • Kid Has a Point: When K Unit is trapped inside the cottage in danger of being kicked out, Alex is the one who gets them out. He notices the chimney on the way in, finds the fireplace behind a metal sheet, and Eagle backs Alex up by saying the chimney is clear.
  • Literal Cliff Hanger: The climax of the film consists of Alex and Sabina clinging onto a rope hanging off of Sayle Tower.
  • Malicious Misnaming: Sayle was called "Darius Smell" when he was at school by the boy who would grow up to be Prime Minister.
  • Momma's Boy: Mr Grin may have been one. Before the film takes place, his mother waved to him in the audience during his act where he would catch a spinning knife in his teeth. Unfortunately for him, when this happened, he lost his concentration and the knife hit him in the face, disfiguring him.
  • Mood Dissonance: One select fight scene (between Jack and Nadia) is intercut with surprisingly appropriate footage of movies and cartoons.
  • My God, You Are Serious!: A variation, when Mr. Blunt tells Alex that he's destined to be a spy.
    Alex: You're not being serious.
    Mr. Blunt: Actually, it's not my habit to make jokes.
  • Near-Miss Groin Attack: When Alex is tied to a chair, he calls Sayle a psychopath. Mr Grin hurls a knife at him and it just misses his crotch. Alex says it was a good shot, while Sayle calls it a near miss. Alex gulps.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The US trailer made it seem as if Alex is searching for his still-living uncle when the plot of the actual movie is set in motion by his uncle's death.
  • Oh, Crap!: Ian Rider in the beginning when Gregorovitch appears by his car window, moments before he is shot dead.
    • Alex in the wrecker's yard when the guard dog comes bounding towards him. He gets another one moments later when the car is picked up by the wrecking claw, with him inside it.
    • The soldiers in the mobile office when Alex takes the brakes off and it starts rolling down the hill.
    • Understandably, Alex when he overhears through the listening device on the Nintendo that Sayle has just ordered him to be killed.
    • Nadia gets one near the end when the zit cream causes the jellyfish tank to smash, while she's standing in front of it.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: The soldiers in K Unit apart from Alex. We (and Alex) know them as Fox, Bear, Eagle and Wolf. Alex himself is this to them, as they only know him by his nickname of Cub.
  • Orange and Blue Contrast: Used very extensively in the original British poster of the film.
  • Painful Pointy Pufferfish: The fight between Nadia Vole and Jack ends abruptly when Nadia impales her hand on the spike from the pufferfish Jack had been painting.
  • Poke in the Third Eye: Alex checks his bedroom in Sayle's headquarters for bugging equipment, using the Nintendo DS. When he finds one in the snout of a stuffed boar's head, he flicks it, causing a loud noise that causes Nadia to remove her headphones in a surveillance room.
  • Product Placement: Delivered in blatant fashion by featuring a Nintendo DS as one of Alex's most indispensable gadgets. This is driven home in the scene in which Stephen Fry's character introduces the console to him, giving him games that are actually varying spy mechanics. The game Mario Kart DS is also mentioned in the same scene (it's not a mechanic, it's just an actual game), and its case held up to the camera for a generously long amount of time.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot:
    • The book features a car chase, but due to Alex Pettyfer being underage, it was changed to a horse race instead.
    • In the book, Alex gets Mr Grin to take him to London by threatening him with a gun, going so far as to fire a warning shot to show he's serious. For similar reasons as to the car chase, a new gadget was added from the book for use in this scene — a fountain pen that fires a dart containing sodium pentathol.
  • Red Is Heroic: In the beginning, Ian Rider escapes from Sayle's plant on a red trail bike, and uses it in the ensuing bike chase.
  • Refusal of the Call: Alex adamantly refuses to be a spy at first when Mr. Blunt proposes it to him.
  • Shout-Out:
  • The Silent Bob: Mr. Grin.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Alex's training scene is given the song choice of Gorillaz's "Feel Good Inc.", which seemed to have only been included as it was one of the biggest hit songs at the time of the film's release. Many have especially taken the music choice to task considering that the album that song is on also contains the more thematically fitting tracks "Dirty Harry" (which is explicitly about war) and "Kids with Guns" (which is about the influence of violence on children).
  • Spared by the Adaptation: In the book, Mr. Grin is killed when the small plane he is flying crashes. In the film, he simply flies off and we never find out what happens to him.
  • Stab the Salad: Jack does this when we first see her, when Alex gets home from school. She draws a knife from a sheath, wields it as Alex nears the kitchen, then, when Alex enters, it's revealed she's cutting up fish for sushi.
  • Suspiciously Apropos Music: As Alex sneaks past the security guard in the wrecker's yard, "I Predict A Riot" by the Kaiser Chiefs is heard on the radio, foreshadowing the fight Alex has with the men who work there after he escapes from the crusher.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Alex, partly helped due to his training in the Brecon Beacons with the soldiers in K Unit.
  • Wake Up, Go to School, Save the World: It's even sorta lampshaded in the film's tagline.
  • When the Clock Strikes Twelve: Alex wakes up at midnight on the day the Stormbreaker computers are due to launch and finds that Yassen Gregorovitch is involved with Sayle's plans.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Darius Sayle, without a shadow of a doubt. He tries to kill British schoolchildren with the R-5 virus, and even throws Alex and Sabina off the top of Sayle Tower.
    • Blunt has hints of this too such as near the end when he is wiling to try and kill Sayle even when he knows Alex could be caught in the line of fire, and so does Mr. Grin.
  • Xanatos Gambit: Unlike in the book where Sayle simply assumes that his plan will work perfectly, in the film he has a transmitter that will release the virus in case something goes wrong with the big red button.

Alternative Title(s): Operation Stormbreaker