Movie Reviews

Alpha – An Uninspired Adventure Film

I’ve seen the trailer for this film before every film I’ve seen for the last 2 years it feels like. It was not worth the wait but I’m glad it’s over.

Synopsis: An epic adventure set in the last Ice Age. Europe, 20,000 years ago. While on his first hunt with his tribe’s most elite group, a young man is injured and left for dead. Awakening to find himself broken and alone — he must learn to survive and navigate the harsh and unforgiving wilderness. Reluctantly taming a lone wolf abandoned by its pack, the pair learn to rely on each other and become unlikely allies, enduring countless dangers and overwhelming odds in order to find their way home before the deadly winter arrives. (Sony Pictures)

Starring: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson, and Natassia Malthe

Writer: Daniele Sebastian Wiedenhaupt

Director: Albert Hughes

Rating: PG (Canada)/PG-13 (United States)

Running Time: 96mins

Trailer: 

This may come as a surprise to you but dogs are cute. Also dogs and young boys are also cute. These facts are undeniable so this film pretty much coasted on this so if you happen to like dogs and young boys, then you will find plenty to enjoy here. The problem with this was that there have been countless young boy and dog films so this kind of story isn’t new. However, this film does not innovate this kind of story all that much. Rather, it dresses it as a survival story with a prehistoric setting. After getting separated from his tribe, a young man named Keda (Smit-McPhee), along with his wolf companion Alpha, must survive the unforgiving weather and wilderness to get back to his family.

If you happen to have seen any of the film’s trailers, you’ve seen the film for the most part. Also, the film we actually got wasn’t necessarily the film that was shown in those trailer. The actual survival part of the film was not as long as most would expect because the film chose to focus more on the relationship between Keda and his father Tau (Jóhannesson) and it only ever approaches either on a superficial level. This may because of the film’s surprisingly short running time, clocking in at just over 90 minutes. Neither subplot was given much a chance as the story could never find the right balance (the film experienced several delays which may have led to this).

The section between Keda and Tau was mostly just exposition and setting up the story’s predictable stakes. Meanwhile, what could have been the best part of the film, the survival section felt rushed due to the short running time and as a result, nothing particularly memorable happened. Other than the Keda and Alpha combination, bringing on the standard character development coming from having to survive together, there wasn’t much else to be had. Keda and Alpha were fun to watch and were clearly the best part of the film but there wasn’t nearly enough of them here. This fact, along with the predictable story, gave us little reason to become emotionally invested in whatever was happening on screen since neither faced that much adversity.

In addition to the relationship between Keda and Alpha, the film boasted some impressive visuals at times but these are tempered by an almost equal amount of distracting moments of CGI, beit with the animals (it felt like at least 95% of the animals moments were CGI) or some of the environments. What they don’t distract from, however, were the problems with the dialog or lack thereof. Perhaps going for authenticity, most of the dialog consisted of grunts and a seemingly caveman language so expect to do a lot of reading. Those who are not in to subtitles may have a more difficult time getting through the film. The writing itself was more on the mediocre side and the use of a different language never could convey enough emotion.

The acting was okay for the most part with Smit-McPhee as Keda being the best by default with Keda being the only developed character in the entire film. He was on screen for the majority of the running time and did the best he could with what he had. It felt like anyone could have played Keda and would have been fine but Smit-McPhee was still compelling enough to watch.

Overall, this was a decent yet forgettable adventure film with that offers some beautiful shots, often hampered by distracting CGI, and some cute boy and dog scenes but also a predictable and unoriginal story that gave us little reason to ever care for it on a deeply emotional level though it’s done before you know it.

Score: 5.5/10

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