This Stone Age adventure deserves immense credit for showing plenty of movie-making courage – but narrows its market by doing so.
It ends up only really hitting the 12-16 year-old demographic by not being universal enough for younger children, or expansive enough for adults.
That’s a matter of opinion of course – but there’s still much to enjoy.
Some of its biggest strengths actually prove to be its undoing as well. For example it’s refreshing to see anolder children’s movie subtitled as it’s wholly delivered with ancient tongue. But sadly this probably wasn’t the best way to go considering its primarily aimed at kids, and constantly staring at bottom-of-the-screen text for more than an hour and a half could stretch the attention span of youngsters to the limit.
But the more mature cinema-goer should appreciate the eye-boggingly impressive – almost National Geographic-esque – production values, with sometimes breathtaking cinematography taking advantage of 20,000 year-old vistas from an era where the imagination can run wild.
Set in Upper Paleolithic Europe – basically late Stone Age where human behaviour was starting to take its fledgling form – Alpha chronicles young warrior Keda (Kodi Smit-McPhee who played Nightcrawler in X-Men: Apocalypse), on his first expedition to hunt for winter’s food with his tribe leader father Tau (Atomic Blonde’s Johannes Haukur Johannesson).
But when Keda seemingly plunges to his death off a cliff face when a bison hunting mission goes wrong – he has to battle against the elements (including a harsh winter) to get back home.
Fortunately he develops a bond with an injured wolf – who he names Alpha – he saves from death after fending him off in battle, and they tackle the elements together, as Keda uses the stars to try and find his village.
Along the way they combine their wits to hunt – which forces Keda to become the warrior his father so desires – and tackle life and death scenarios in the wilderness such as breaking ice and prehistoric mammals.
The basic end game of the movie shows the forging of the first tentative bond between man and canine – and despite it being a slow-burner it achieves its goal with pleasing, if ultimately unspectacular, competence.
The only problem is the baron material can’t help but lead to lulls in action within the storytelling, which means this drama only really fits a niche audience – and sadly won’t really linger in the memory for too long.
Which leaves Alpha dominant in its intentions – but ultimately restricted to a very small pack.
Cast: Kodi Smit-Mcphee, Johannes Haukur Johannesson, Natassia Malthe & Narrated By Morgan Freeman
Running Time: 1 Hr 36 Mins
Director: Albert Hughes
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