Stormbreaker (PG) <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

Harry Potter meets Harry Palmer in this homegrown espionage thriller, adapted by Anthony Horowitz from his novel about a junior secret agent. Alex Rider (Alex Pettyfer) is mourning the mysterious death of his guardian uncle (Ewan McGregor) when he suddenly finds himself recruited by MI6's Special Ops Division, headed by the less-than-reassuring figure of Bill Nighy, mumming rather too freely nowadays.

It's basically an enactment of every 14-year-old boy's fantasy: he already has the skills (fighting, climbing, shooting etc) learnt courtesy of uncle Ewan; now he's loaded up with an arsenal of cool toys to help him out of tight spots (Stephen Fry is gadget-master à la Q - they ought to have called him P).

Impossible not to think of Rider as a fun-sized Bond, especially when his mission leads him to the lair of the obligatory billionaire villain (Mickey Rourke, just about suppressing a yawn) and a deadly computer that has to be disarmed. There's even that classic 007 trope of a factory hideout patrolled by blokes in boiler suits. I enjoyed the moment when Alex, having flattened a bunch of goons with high-kicking moves, makes his getaway on a bicycle - would a stolen car send out the wrong message to starry-eyed teens? - but I couldn't work up much enthusiasm for the rest.

Pettyfer, a handsome kid, isn't quite at ease as an actor, though perhaps he'll grow into the role. The door to a sequel has been left conspicuously ajar; the licence to thrill has yet to be earned.

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