by Christine Westwood

It’s New York (though we will soon be transported to London). Bad men are driving a van, there are architectural plans of a building, and soon a terrible crime is committed. This is the crisp opening to series Alex Rider.

We are introduced to Alex at school in England. He’s clever, attractive and has a loyal, geeky best friend. Otto Farrant is a perfect casting choice, in the mould of the quintessential British action hero, blonde, blue eyed, full of derring-do and a wholesome all-round chap. His athletic physicality makes him believable as the kid that’s soon to be recruited by M16.

Andrew Buchan is another good casting choice. As Alex’s tough but good guy uncle and guardian, he demonstrates how Alex has been brought up to be responsible and have good values. There is no question that he is going to fight on the side of right.

The first episode is a nice set up where we see Alex and his friend pull off a prank at school. There is just enough anti-authority, cat burglar skills and a chase, to foreshadow the boy’s future when things get serious.

The settings mimic those of the 2006 movie version, as Alex speeds around London’s industrial areas. Plenty of opportunities for evasion, changing landscape and obstacles.

A note on that 2006 film, it had an all-star cast [Stephen Fry, Bill Nighy, Damian Lewis, Sophie Okonedo, Robbie Coltrane, Andy Serkis, Sarah Bolger, Michey Rourke (!!!!)] including Alex Pettyfer as Alex and Ewan McGregor as the uncle but the general criticism was that it took the least successful of the books in the series (the first one), Stormbreaker, and didn’t quite pull it off.

Co-producers Eleventh Hour Films, ITV and Sony Pictures, are making no mistake with this production, drawing largely from Point Blanc, the second and most popular book of the series, as written for the screen by BAFTA winner Guy Burt, who collaborated with the book series author, Anthony Horowitz [himself a highly accomplished screenwriter on shows like Foyle’s War, Midsommer Murders, etc]

Horowitz was awarded an OBE for his services to literature and, as an ex public school boy himself, it’s no surprise that the Ian Fleming estate commissioned him to write a couple of Bond stories. Arthur Conan Doyle’s estate also hired him to write a sequel on the great detective. You can’t get more in the pocket of classic Brit thriller than that.

In a Q&A with the Guardian, Horowitz cites Tintin among his favourite childhood reading and says what he most likes about Alex Rider is ‘his reluctance to become a hero.’ And that the books are set just at the pre sex age where a young audience can enjoy plenty of action and adventure without too much kissing. As the tag line goes – Teen. Spy. Hero.

Spot on for the genre, and an excellent production overall.

Alex Rider will be premiering on Amazon Prime Video on Friday 31 July, 2020

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