Alpha may be about man’s best friend but because of the plot at hand, the film is going to draw well-deserved comparisons to The Black Stallion.
There are some great visuals in this story set 20,000 years ago but they don’t play so well in 3D. I had no issue in watching this film play out on the IMAX screen but it doesn’t need to be in 3D. The were no big fights or anything that call for a release in 3D. After the first half hour, we spent most of the time with a young man and a wolf while they both fight for survival.
Keda (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is only seventeen and a member of the Solutrean tribe. They are part of the Cro-Magnon living in what we know to be present day France and Spain. Winters were brutal so if one were to get lost and not return prior to the first snowfall, they were as good as dead. Keda was only being taught by his dad, Tau (Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson), as he joined in the first hunt for the Great Beast aka bison.
Many of us are so spoiled when compared to Keda’s battle for survival. Outside of those of us who get lost in the woods, etc., many of us would depend on the GPS on our smartphones to get to where we’re going. Not Keda. He can only depend on the stars in the sky to get back home after getting separated from his tribe. Injured and left for dead, Keda deals with it all on the journey home. He deals with hunger, illness, the awful winter conditions at the end of the Ice Age, and animals wanting to eat him for dinner.
Against all odds, Keda perseveres. He does so with the aid of a lone wolf who he refers to as Alpha. Alpha was abandoned by their pack so the two of them recover together. It takes a while but the two eventually befriend each other. As Keda stars to journey back, there’s a fun moment when he throws a stick to Alpha thinking the wolf would leave. Nope, the wolf does what’s natural and plays fetch. It’s one of the film’s cutest moments!
It’s because of this that the film will draw so many comparisons to The Black Stallion. There comes a point in which the run into Alpha’s back and Keda instructs the wolf to go. It’s only later on the journey when Keda falls into the ice in which Alpha comes to the rescue. It shows the emotional bond between the two of them by this point in the film.
Similar to Cast Away and so many others, this film depends largely on Smit-McPhee holding his own. He’s benefited, of course, by one of the best supporting animal appearances on screen. You can honestly not go wrong with a cute animal–especially one of this variety. And yet it doesn’t matter that Alpha is the rare studio film that doesn’t contain any words spoken in English. There’s so few lines of dialogue in this film that the language doesn’t make a difference.
The research put into the film helps to right the previous depictions of this era. Moreover, it takes us to a time when wolves first became domestic animals. Credit to Dr. Jill Cook for her knowledge of this era. The film does not depict this idea of early man as cave men but rather humans who have the ability to think and feel. This makes for a better story and film as a result.
Ultimately, Alpha is a tale that transcends time and space to tell a beautiful story of friendship between humans and animals. The film tells such a story with stunning views by land or aerial shots. The land is every bit a character as the two stars.
DIRECTOR: Albert Hughes
SCREENWRITERS: Daniele Sebastian Wiedenhaupt
CAST: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson, Leonor Varela, Marcin Kowalczyk, Jens Hultén, Natassia Malthe, Spencer Bogaert, Mercedes de la Zerda, and Chuck