My mom, sister Linda and I slipped away for a couple of hours for an impromptu movie night. We are animal lovers in my family, therefore we found ourselves drawn to the film that portrays the discovery of man’s best friend. Grab some popcorn, the healthier kind please, and enjoy this movie review of Alpha.
Alpha stars Kodi Smit-McPhee, Johannes Haukur Johannesson, Natassia Malthe, and Spencer Bogaert. This adventure film, directed by Albert Hughes, carries a PG-13 rating for scenes of peril, and has a run time of 1 hour and 36 minutes.
Set in Europe, 20,000 years ago, the movie opens with the men from a small tribe closing in on their prey. Once a year the men, led by Chief Tau (Johannesson), trek for days to a distant hunting ground where huge shaggy bison roam. The tribe’s survival during the harsh winter depends on their success.
This year, for the first time, Tau’s son Keda (Smit-McPhee) and his friend Kappa (Bogaert) accompany the men as part of their rite of passage into manhood. Keda’s mother (Malthe) is reluctant to let her son join the hunt.
“He leads with his heart, not with his spear,” the mother says of her teenage son, when Tau declares that it’s time for the boy to learn to lead.
It’s a learning journey for Keda. His father instructs him on the art of making fire, goads him into attempting his first kill for food (Keda refuses) and points out the Big Dipper constellation in the sky. “It points toward home,” Tau tells his son.
Things go awry when the tribe encounters the bison. As the hunters drive the herd over a cliff, Keda is caught on the horns of a charging bull and flung from the cliff as well. Unconscious on a narrow rock ledge, beyond the reach of his tribe, Keda is left for dead by his grieving father.
Keda is not dead, but he is alone in a magnificent and challenging landscape. Injured and frightened, the boy begins the journey home, one painful step at a time. On the way he is surrounded by a pack of hungry wolves. Keda knifes one wolf as he scrambles up a tree.
The next morning, only the injured wolf remains. Keda’s heart does indeed lead him. Rather than kill the wolf, he muzzles him and carries him to a cave where both can heal. A relationship forms, between the boy and the wolf, as they learn to trust and respect each other. Will they be able to help each other reach the safety of the tribe encampment before the winter snows begin?
This turned out to be a beautiful film, visually rich with outstanding cinematography. The simplicity of the story, which could be classified as a blend of coming of age meets a boy and his dog, lent itself well to the unfolding journey.
The actors spoke in another language, requiring subtitles on the screen. I read that it was a made up language and also that they spoke a Native American dialect. Either way, it didn’t detract from the story. I found the language to be beautiful. Short sentences or singles words were used primarily while facial expressions and hand gestures conveyed more.
At the heart of this charming film is a young man who discovers his own unique strengths while developing patience, perseverance and loyalty to the wolf who journeys with him. The two play together, hunt together, and curl up before the fire together in the cold. Each night Keda looks for the Big Dipper. Each day the pair trudges northward.
An uncertain boy left the camp. A young man returns home, with a surprising companion. Alpha is a feel good movie that allows the viewer to leave with a smile on the face and a warmth in the heart and the strong desire to hug a dog.