In the prehistoric past, during the end of the Ice Age, a hunt for buffalo takes a wrong turn for a tribe as their youngest hunter, Keda (Kodi Smit-McPhee), is separated from the hunting party. Injured and presumed dead, Keda is abandoned in the harsh wilderness. His situation only worsens when he’s attacked by a pack of wolves. While he manages to injure one, the guilty Keda takes pity on the wounded wolf and takes it with him. Both alone, wounded, and away from their loved ones, Keda and his wolf companion will have to come together if they’re to have any chance of surviving the inhospitable terrain.
It’s a mystery when Man and Canines first began their union. Various archeologists and historians have come to some conclusions around what era man was first seen with domesticated dogs, but the tale of the first bond between a human and a canine is sadly lost to the ages. So, while it’s a complete work of fiction, “Alpha” is an interesting tale about how that first encounter may have gone.
Admittedly, the story of a young man lost in the woods and befriending a wild animal is a story that’s been done before, but “Alpha” I feel stands out. Taking place in a prehistoric period, the stakes and dangers are far higher for our main character and his companion. There are no doctors or radios, no guns or knives, just each other and whatever tools Keda can craft into a spear. Plus, as it takes place in the Ice Age, the animals are wilder and more hostile.
While it can be dark, the film is littered with little sweet moments as we see Keda and his companion bond. Being this is a story of how canines became Man’s Best Friend, there are scenes where Keda’s wolf displays actions we’ve come to associate with domesticated dogs of today—coming to their master when they hear them whistle, fetching a thrown stick, constantly watching their master as they prepare food, and more.
Besides that, the film has plenty of scenes with neat cinematography combined with cool visuals. Nothing that’s going to jump out and ‘wow’ anyone per se, but they’ll hold your attention. One last thing I have to applaud the film for is the fact they went the extra mile and had all the characters speaking in an unknown language. Yes, there’s no English here or a crude attempt at it—the entire film is subtitled. It shows that the film at least respects its audience’s intelligence as it assumes its viewers are smart enough to read.
“Alpha” is rated PG-13 for moments of intense peril. If you’re a dog lover or someone who enjoys films centered in a prehistoric period, “Alpha” has something for both of you. Though anyone who’s interested in viewing this film should be aware that there is both a Theatrical Release of the film and a Director’s Cut. I’d recommend looking for a copy of the Director’s Cut as it corrects some of the editing issues I had with the Theatrical Release. Regardless, the final score for “Alpha” is a 7 out of 10.
Matthew Mendisana is a Lynn University alumnus. While he possesses a Bachelor’s Degree in Science, it’s the arts that attracted his attention. He currently serves as a Journalist and Copy Editor to the Coastal Breeze News and is working on becoming a Published Author.