If readers have seen the trailer of Alpha, they will know the story. Set 20,000 years ago somewhere in present-day Europe, a boy named Keda, who is coming of age, has to prove to his father and the whole tribe that he can hunt.
No matter how sharp he carves his spear, the boy is not the kind who leads the hunt, but he does it “with his heart”. He is tossed over a cliff after he is unable to kill a charging bison. Presumed dead, the tribe forces his devastated father to abandon him.
But the boy survives, and finds his way out of the cliff. While trying to keep himself alive, he knifes a wolf from an attacking pack. The other wolves run away, leaving the injured one, Alpha, behind.
All this has already happened within the first quarter of the film, and the rest of the plot is about how Alpha and Keda get along, and the wild wolf becomes a pet dog. Keda carries the wounded wolf to his cave. Separated from their families, both stick with each other for safety and food.
The wolf grows affectionate: there is an “Awwww” moment when Alpha waits until Keda falls asleep, and then comes back to snuggle beside him. But Keda does not realise what the wolf means to him, until it goes back to its pack.
What happens after Keda is left alone? How do they find each other again? How does the attachment between them grow stronger? Go see the film.
Keda’s transition from a boy hunter to a courageous survivor, and the wolf’s from a savage beast to a loyal follower, is a beautifully crafted story. Director Albert Hughes skillfully brings to screen the relationship between a breadwinner and a protector, and one wonders if this is actually the story of the evolution of the domesticated dog from the wolf.
Kodi Smit-McPhee plays Keda (the ‘keta’) convincingly, building chemistry with the wolf played partly by Chuck, a real life Czech Wolf Dog from France. Adding to the performance is the cinematography, reminiscent of the stunning visuals of NatGeo or Discovery channels. Shot in Vancouver, Alberta, and Iceland, cinematographer Martin Gschlacht recreates a prehistoric Ice Age Europe of vast snowy mountains, stunning starry sky, lightning-split horizons, and dense forests. Time-lapses of days and nights are unique, and especially dramatic in 3D IMAX.
Alpha may not really stand out among the many ‘boy and dog’ movies. However, by the time you come to the end, you will not only be spellbound by the onscreen scenery, but want to hurry back home and give a big, tight hug to your own Alpha.
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