Alpha movie cast: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson
Alpha movie director: Albert Hughes
Alpha movie ratings: 3.5 stars
Christine Schreyer, an associate professor of anthropology, took two years to piece together the new language that is spoken by the characters in this film, which is set somewhere in the European region during the Ice Age.
And that is not even the most remarkable thing about Alpha. It is how the films unfolds, slowly and gradually, first appearing alarmingly like a Hollywood extravaganza, then a simple fairy tale, before completely upturning the idea of what that the term ‘alpha’ has come to mean — especially now, in a world increasingly led by ultra-masculine men invoking ultra-muscular authority.
Alpha has two heroes – one a skinny boy entering his teens, almost feminine in appearance, who has to step into the large, hunter-gatherer shoes of his father, the chief of their tribe; and the second, a wolf, which attacks him, and which by the laws of the wild, he should kill but chooses to save.
The boy called Keda (Smit-McPhee) has already earned himself several frowns from his tribesmen for instincts such as above. This invites him repeated exhortations, though lovingly, from father Tau (Jóhannesson) about leadership, honour, bravery, strength, and other such stuff, delivered at night around jungle fires. And then Keda falls off a cliff during a hunt, is left behind for dead, and must claw his way back home, literally, as the winter approaches.
Injured and hungry, it is in this condition that Keda meets the wolf. Stabbed by Keda in a bid to save himself, the wolf is also bleeding and starved. And they tentatively strike a friendship, in a sequence that the film beautifully projects — from a cave, inside a lake, across the wide expanse of a landscape, over shared food and water, and then joint hunts. Keda names the wolf ‘Alpha’.
Much of it is, of course, CGI. But cinematographer Martin Gschlacht lays out such striking landscapes and images (especially one of Keda and Alpha in a frozen lake, separated by the sheet of ice), in 3D, that you are willing to see past the parts where the CGI is glaring.
Besides, while nudging us to rethink what we think when we hear ‘Alpha’, there is another story at the heart of the film. It is about the beginning of a beautiful friendship, one of the few things to have endured 20,000 years later: between man and dog.
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