Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

From the inspired animation of its opening sequence to the perfect colour-matching of its action scenes, Thunderbirds is a technically brilliant film, clearly a labour of love, and a great credit to director Jonathan Frakes.

Though it has a simple story, somewhat blank acting and awkwardly choreographed fights, its every flaw corresponds perfectly with the make-up of the original series; it has dared to imitate faithfully rather than to modernise or to attempt improvement. As such, it is bound to appeal to fans of the show. What is impressive is that it also provides at least passable entertainment for casual cinema goers; and it is one of those rare films which features child stars and engages children in the audience without thoroughly irritating adults. The token geeky kid is annoying, sure, but he's easy enough to ignore as the story bounces along, and there's always plenty to see.

This big-screen adventure focuses on the experiences of the youngest Tracy brother, Alan, kept out of the team because he's still at school and because his father seems reluctant to let the last of his little boys grow up (slightly confusing behaviour, perhaps, from a man who encourages his older sons to risk their lives on a daily basis).

Alan gets his chance to be a hero only when Tracy Island itself is threatened by the evil schemes of Ben Kingsley's mind-controlling madman The Hood. Appropriately, the height of this character's ambition is to rob banks. Equally appropriately, the female characters in the story get very little to do, though Sophia Myles still makes quite an impression as Lady Penelope, and we never really have to question why she's there. Bill Paxton is a suitably wooden Jeff Tracy, and the other Thunderbirds are all adequate.

Where the movie comes into its own, of course, is in the action sequences, with scenes of the great machines emerging from Tracy Island perfectly judged to be both accurate and believable. Something approaching tension is achieved in the rescue sequences, and the atmosphere of the original is all there. Overall, this is an impressive effort; it seems unlikely to break any box-office records, but artistically it's done what it set out to do.

Reviewed on: 11 Jul 2007
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Live action kids adventure, based on the long running UK puppet TV show.
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Scott Macdonald *

Director: Jonathan Frakes

Writer: William Osborne, Michael McCullers, based on the TV series by Gerry Anderson and Sylvia Anderson

Starring: Brady Corbet, Bill Paxton, Ben Kingsley, Sophia Myles, Anthony Edwards, Ron Cook, Dominic Colenso, Genie Francis, Debora Weston, Soren Fulton, Lou Hirsch

Year: 2004

Runtime: 94 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US/UK


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