Film review: ‘ALPHA’ by Nick Gardener from ‘Built for Speed’

The premise of Alpha is a familiar Disney ‘boy meets animal in the wilderness’ story but with a prehistoric setting and contemporary cinema flash.

Set 20,000 years ago in what is now Europe, the film centres on sensitive young hunter gatherer Keda (Australia’s Kodi Smit-McPhee). While on a hunting expedition designed to take the young males into manhood, Keda fails a test a of courage and finds himself alone in the bleak tundra. Attempting to find his way home, he’s forced to go all Bear Grylls eating maggots and rabbits’ gizzards, fashioning splints from rocks and sticks and navigating by the stars. Along the way he fights and befriends a wolf he names Alpha and together they endure a gruelling journey battling blizzards and wild animals.

Evoking Call of The Wild, Enemy Mine and Old Yella, this is a touching, often exciting, if slightly predictable rites-of-passage story.

Director Albert Hughes creates an impressive prehistoric landscape with sweeping vistas filmed in Canada and Iceland. While the landscapes look spectacular, some of the CGI used in backgrounds and to bring woolly mammoths and other creatures to life is a little dodgy.

Typical of today’s adventure movies the film is full of whiplash editing and skull-crunchingly loud sound effects but this doesn’t hinder its ability to engage us emotionally. While not exactly violent it’s more intense and visceral than the average Disney film with some punishing human vs nature encounters and a constant sense of threat stalking Keda.

Kodi Smit-McPhee is an effectively sympathetic lead as Keda even if he looks like he’s just stepped off a suburban street and wears immaculately-tailored animal skin clothes. Also, a viewer would need to have a heart colder than the ice age approaching this film’s characters not to feel for his four-legged buddy.

Alpha is a slightly cliched animal story but still a powerful one.

Nick’s rating: ***1/2

Genre: Prehistoric adventure.

Classification: PG.

Director(s): Albert Hughes.

Release date: 4th Oct 2018.

Running time: 96 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.


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