Directed by Albert Hughes
Produced by Albert Hughes and Andrew Rona
What can be said about the relationship between dog and man? Our once-competitor for resources became one of our strongest allies, as a species, and today you probably have one at your feet right now. Alpha, out in theaters August 17, tells the story of the first companionship between dog and man. Or rather, wolf and boy.
Alpha is part coming-of-age story, part survival story. Set in prehistoric Europe, the story follows a boy, Keda (played by Kodi Smit-McPhee), on his first hunt. Things go terribly wrong, and mistaken for dead, he is left behind. His own predicament is mirrored by the wolf companion, right down to the injured leg.
I can only think to describe this film like a Paleolithic cave painting. It is given shape and vibrancy by the breathtaking locale that surrounds it. Many of the shots are silhouettes of boy and wolf trekking across star-spattered horizons or multi-hued twilights. A sense of modernity and epic scale are lent by the cinematography. The visual effects are near seamless.
There is a breadth to this film that adds depth to a story so familiar. Unlike other films, there is not just one “villain,” there are many—hyper-carnivores, exposure, injury, hunger. Each is its own threat. Yet at the same time the story is also laser-focused on the relationship of the two main characters. Nothing is left out. Light-hearted nods are given to the games of tug-of-war and fetch. Acknowledgement is given to the impulse we have to share our feelings with our pets. When Keda tells the wolf how he misses home, Alpha howls to the pack that lingers out of sight. What other sound triggers loneliness in us more than the forlorn howl of a wolf?
Although the dialogue is brief and side characters are given short scenes, the acting prowess was sharp and clear in every moment. There might not have been any innovative new backstory but as a viewer, I felt I understood each side character. Their motivations, fears, weaknesses, and loyalties were spoken in looks and gestures. In short, this film doesn’t sell you, or them as the creators, short.
Alpha provides an enduring story of untold beauty, perseverance, the overcoming of seemingly insurmountable odds, companionship, and grit. It has something for everyone, and tells its story in a poignantly soft voice that will make you think about it for a long time to come.
Seattle Pup Magazine Rating
★★★★★ Favorite / Masterpiece /4 paws UP! 4 Paws WAY UP!