Director – Albert Hughes
Writer – Daniele Sebastian Wiedenhaupt, Albert Hughes
Starring – Kodi Smit-McPhee, Natassia Malthe, Leonor Varela
Rating – PG-13
Genre – Action, Drama, Family
Metascore – 62/100
Rotten Tomatoes – 84%
Perhaps in the midst of summer blockbusters, a slow, lingering film might be a relief; and while sometimes slow and steady can win the race, Alpha wins no gold, silver, or bronze.
Set in the deep past, before the domestication of animals, Alpha tells an origin story of man and “his best friend,” the dog. (Granted, it’s a wolf in this film.) Now, with the emotional weight this relationship between man and dog continues to hold over film viewers (e.g., Dog Days), one could suspect an emotionally heavy film. Instead, Alpha relies too much on your preconceived emotional connection to your own animal companion. If you don’t already have fond memories of playing fetch and teaching your dog to sit, you probably won’t understand the “significant” breakthroughs shown throughout in the film.
Moreover, Alpha bores. Its basic plot is predictable and seemingly low-stakes, even in the midst of threats such as hyenas and hypothermia. Before the film, I took a couple minutes to plot out what I expected to occur due to the trailer. I could have saved myself an hour and a half.
At the very least Kodi Smit-McPhee, who played the lead role Keda, provided a solid performance. His ability to carry the film for so long, acting across from a speechless wolf, was commendable. What was odd, though, was how quickly Keda’s convictions changed. At the beginning, he held strongly to a certain conviction regarding animals; however, after meeting his wolf-friend, his conviction changed. I don’t quite understand what flipped in his mind, and I don’t think the film provides compelling reason for his change.
Interestingly enough, what might be the most impressive feature of this film could also be the feature which most divides viewers. One might see the expansive settings, timelapses, and unique framing and editing as great strengths. I agree in one regard, as I noticed the film seem to shoot as many scenes possible with the source lighting behind the foreground. This decision allowed for some beautiful silhouettes. However, in regards to expansive settings and time lapses, I wasn’t impressed. Planet Earth is better and CGI-less: You will certainly be more awed by an hour and a half of Planet Earth than you will by Alpha.
As a result, you can put Alpha behind you as summer blockbuster season comes to a close. If you absolutely love stories about the timeless relationship between man and dog, then perhaps it’s worth a watch. However, there are plenty of other options worth your time.
Author: Matt Welborn