"Alpha" Movie Review

Updated on May 14, 2019
popcollin profile image

Collin's been a movie critic since 2009. In real life he works in marketing and is also a novelist ("Good Riddance" published in Oct 2015).

Alpha | Source

Director Albert Hughes’ Alpha has bounced around more times than a Superball in a dryer—never a good sign. Initially set for release last fall, the film was postponed six months to this past March, then to September, and now here we are in August. Since it’s normally a sure sign that something is rotten in the state of Denmark (or the Canadian tundra, where much of Alpha was filmed), imagine my surprise when the movie turned out to be one of the more memorable and certainly ambitious of the year.

Kodi Smit-McPhee stars as Keda, a young man coming of age in his father’s tribe during the Stone Age, in what is now Europe. (We’re told the events unfold 20,000 years ago, which would make him a Solutrean—the film’s original title.) During the annual pre-winter hunting expedition, Keda gets tossed off a cliff and seemingly killed by a bison, forcing the tribe, which is unable to reach his body for burial, to mournfully continue its trip. When Keda comes to, he manages to make it safely down from the cliff shelf that caught his fall, and he begins the arduous journey home. He is attacked by wolves, however, but successfully fends them off, injuring one in the process. The next morning, Keda befriends the animal, names him Alpha, and carries him to shelter so the two can begin to heal before winter sets in.

Hughes came up with the plot himself—the original “boy and his dog” story—and first-timer Dan Wiedenhaupt crafted the screenplay with the help of an anthropologist, who devised an entirely new language for the film. (What sparse speaking there is comes with subtitles.) Directing for the first time without his brother Allen (as The Hughes Brothers), Albert took what many would consider a fool’s errand (lesser-known star, never-before-heard language, largely a one-man show, canine co-star), and turned it into something poignant and engaging.

At its heart, Alpha is fairly basic, but, as Hughes proves, even the simplest narratives can be utterly engaging. Between the fine work of Smit-McPhee and the breathtaking cinematography by Martin Gschlacht, Alpha plays like a sweeping and complex drama. Whether it’s shots of Keda trudging through the snow, the vertigo-inducing views from the cliff ledge, or swoops through canyons and across prairies, the camera never stops providing awe-inducing shots that can’t help but pull you in. And the fulfilling story does the rest.

We may never know why Sony delayed Alpha for so long, but it’s quite possibly because they had no faith this project would ever fly (and continued to be nervous even after seeing the finished product). And yes, on paper it’s the kind of thing that execs would toss aside after the pitch meeting. Alpha certainly won’t set the box office on fire, but that’s not because it doesn’t deserve to. It defies the odds (and lengthy delays) to emerge as one of the better movies of the summer.


4/5 stars

'Alpha' trailer


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, reelrundown.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)