As the saying goes, a dog is man’s best friend, but it wasn’t always that way. Whilst Kevin Kostner may have been dancing with Wolves in the 19th century, human beings have been hunted by wild dogs and wolves for millennia. At some point man and beast became friends. Or at the very least, they were trained to hunt and protect and later domesticated. In Albert Hughes (Hughes Brothers) first solo film Alpha, he tells a fictional story about how that this bond might have come to pass.
Europe, 18,000 BC, a tribe of hunter-gatherers prepare for a hunting expedition to stock up with food for the coming winter. The chief of the tribe is Tau (Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson) who is loved and respected by his clan. For the first time they’re joined by his son, Keda (Kodi Smit-McPhee), who has been training for this day. Whilst out hunting a herd of bison, a stampede ends with Keda being thrown over the edge of a cliff, and he’s given up for dead. With the help of an injured wolf, he must find a way back to his tribe before winter descends.
Alpha is compelling story of endurance, determination and friendship. It’s beautifully crafted. The harsh realities of the late Stone Age are brought to life with danger lurking around every boulder. The cinematography accentuates the vastness and emptiness of Keda’s world. The story itself is basic and straightforward but allows the time for the bond to build up between boy and wolf. In the end, there’s nothing new in Alpha, but it’s made with enough love and attention to make it entirely watchable.
Alpha is released on DVD and Blu-Ray by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment on 7 January.