We’ve seen spy movies galore on the big screen, with the James Bond franchise, Mission Impossible franchise, Jason Bourne series, Jack Ryan series and others standalone entries like Salt, Wanted, The Recruit, Argo, The Day of the Jackal and The Third Man being widely recognised as the more memorable ones. Coming to TV shows, web series and miniseries, titles such as modern-day masterpeices such as Killing Eve, Homeland, The Night Manager, Alias, La Femme Nikita, Strike Back, Counterpart, The Saint, and 24 (no, The Americans won’t be included in this list no matter what some critics say) spring to mind. However, we’ve never had an espionage film or series that provides the same thrill, suspense, twists and edge-of-the-seat moments that their adult counterparts have (unless you count the juvenile representation of Spy Kids)…until now. The British show Alex Rider can now proudly lay claim to be the first.
Scroll below for my full Alex Rider review
What’s it about
High-school teenager Alex Rider (Otto Farrant) is beside himself with grief after his uncle and only family, Ian Rider (Andrew Buchan), dies, in what’s said to be a car accident. Alex though suspects something to be off and learns that his uncle was a top spy for an agency even more covert that Britain’s MI6. Impressed by his ingenuity and basic skill set, having been trained since young by his uncle, the head of the spy organisatoin, Stephen Dillane (Alan Blunt) hires Alex to infiltrate a secret school in the French Alps, Point Blanc, where wayward rich teens are shipped off to be disciplined, only to return and have their parents at their mercy.
Based on the series of novels by Anthony Horowitz (which I haven’t read), the best aspect of Alex Rider is how Guy Burt adapts it by never distilling its smarter elements or slicker tones in keeping with its younger protagonist, thus catering to the entire family. This is a teenage spy who could give James Bond and Ethan Hunt a run for their money, if not with gadgets and brawn, then certainly with brains and tenacity. The plot is nicely set up for several thrilling sequences that occur later on and twists that you never see coming while the basis for the spywork itself and the antagonists that our hero deals with are very believable and very dangerous, lending a grownup vibe to a family show. Even the action scenes, though not many, leave your adrenaline pumping.
Otto Farrant brings the right mix of vulnerability, determination and youthful zeal to his part, getting able support from both the adults and fellow youngsters around him, while co-Directors Andreas Prochaska and Christopher Smith shrewdly navigate their way through Burt’s screenplay, leading things to a kickass finale, which in turn, sets everything up brilliantly for season 2 (fingers crossed that it happens, it certainly deserves to). Technically, too, the show is marvelous with sleek camerawork from Ben Wheeler and a background score that knows exactly when and how to oscillate between being enthusing and engaging.
After a great start, Alex Rider (available on Sony Liv in India) takes another 2-3 episodes to find its footing again, demanding a degree of patience, which no doubt, pays off handsomely afterward. Richard Smither and Ben Whitehead’s editing, too, needed to have been sharper by at least trimming each episode to 30-35 minutes or curtailing the entire show to around six episodes instead of eight.
Alex Rider is intelligent, thrilling, unpredictable, keeps you guessing, keeps you on your toes, gets your adrenaline pumping and is fun enough for younger audiences as also marvelously engrossing for adult viewers — in short, it’s a great binge-watch for the entire family. A few issues with pace and length in the middle episodes aside, this provides terrific entertainment for audiences of all ages and is a stupendous addition to the pantheon of great espionage thrillers on screen. I’m going with 4 out of 5 stars.