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Alpha Movie Review

Alpha (2018) movie poster Alpha

Theatrical Release: August 17, 2018 / Running Time: 97 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Albert Hughes / Writers: Daniele Sebastian Wiedenhaupt (screenplay), Albert Hughes (story)

Cast: Kodi Smit-McPhee (Keda), Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson (Tau), Marcin Kowalczyk (Sigma), Jens Hultén (Xi), Natassia Malthe (Rho), Mercedes de la Zerda (Nu), Leonor Varela (Shaman Woman), Spencer Bogaert (Kappa), Priya Rajaratnam (Huntress), Chuck (Alpha)


The drama Alpha is set in Europe twenty thousand years ago. It is a time when men must be brave and provide for their families from a young age. Our human protagonist Keda (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is seemingly a teenager when his father and tribe leader Tau (Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson, "Game of Thrones")
deems him ready to participate in dangerous hunting trips. One such trip claims the life of Keda's contemporary, a cousin presumably. And Keda seems destined for the same fate when an attack on buffalo leaves him injured and evidently lifeless on a high, inaccessible rock. A saddened Tau and company leave Keda behind after memorializing him.

But Keda isn't dead. He's just severely wounded. So too is a wolf who comes to tag along with the boy as they make the long, perilous journey back to Keda's tribe without the aid of GPS. Keda names the wolf Alpha.

There isn't a lot to chew on here narratively. Once the main event arrives, it is the story of a boy and a wolf, both separated from their families and clinging to life. They become companions in adventure and quickly earn our sympathy simply by being down and out together.

"Alpha" tells the story of a friendship between a wolf and a young man (Kodi Smit-McPhee) during the last Ice Age.

Alpha doesn't have a wealth of dialogue and what's there is surprisingly all delivered in some unknown prehistoric language, which is translated by English subtitles. That's a bold move for an $80 million US studio release and one that pays off with an air of authenticity. None of us really knows what existence was like millenniae ago, but screenwriter Daniele Sebastian Wiedenhaupt, utilizing a story by director Albert Hughes (Menace II Society, The Book of Eli), speculates and gives us something that is fairly compelling.

Sure, it's kind of a laborious trek because we know that Keda will resist the wolf at first but come to appreciate and admire. We know the two friends will be tested by the elements
and that viewers would hate the film if one or both of them should perish before reuniting with their clans.

Alpha makes up for its lack of surprises with an abundance of heart, an essential element of the boy and animal tradition that this so very clearly joins.

As an original non-franchise film with no name actors and a pretty sparing use of visual effects, Alpha is kind of an unusual film to find opening wide in the summer. As only the second completed production of Jeff Robinov's ambitious Sony imprint Studio 8 -- the first was 2016's epic flop Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk from Academy Award-winning director Ang Lee -- Alpha seems poised to stumble at the box office despite above-average reviews, a solid Tomatometer number, and some detectible audience interest.

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Kodi Smit-McPhee: Let Me InThe RoadDawn of the Planet of the Apes
Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson: Atomic Blonde

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Reviewed August 17, 2018.

Text copyright 2018 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2018 Sony, Columbia Pictures, and Studio 8.
Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.