Director: Albert Hughes
Starring: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Leonor Varela
Rating: 4 and a half stars out of 5
I didn’t know what to expect from Alpha – I thought it would be Dances with Wolves (1990) reworked, but poorly so. I quickly realised how wrong I was. This is a story about a tribe in Europe in the Stone Age.
Winter is fast approaching and the tribe must send their strongest warriors on a dangerous hunt for bison.
The chief’s son Keda (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is one of the youngsters chosen to go and his mother is concerned that he isn’t ready.
They set out and things go horribly wrong. The subtitled film opens with a scene where the hunting party forces a herd of bison towards a cliff at spear-point. It’s a pretty smart idea until Keda gets cornered by a lone bison and it tosses him over the cliff.
The graphics in this scene bothered me as the movement of Keda’s body through the air could’ve been made to look a little more natural.
Things take an artful turn, quickly. The shots that director Albert Hughes include all seem to be really large. If you watch this film on your PC and pause it at any point, you will have a stunning image on your screen.
Keda is thought to be dead, and his distraught father and the hunting party must leave before the winter snow sets in.
Keda is now alone in the wilderness. A ravenous pack of wolves rolls up on him and he’s forced to stab one of them, a wolf he later names Alpha.
Hughes uses a lot of long shots, showing just the silhouettes on screen and it’s a striking effect. He’s also paid particular attention to the grading of the images, giving them a slight tint reminiscent at times of films like 300 (2006). I also enjoyed how very little script there is in this.
Keda goes through so much in the wilderness with Alpha at his side.
Their stories intertwine beautifully as both are separated from their families and badly hurt.
Hughes makes use of an incredible shot towards the tail-end of the film, where Keda gets trapped under frozen ice. A long shot shows Keda submerged and Alpha on the surface, trying to break through by jumping up and hitting the ice. It’s a breathtaking shot in slow motion, and gracefully executed.
I could go on all day … go and watch this.