Movie Review: Alpha

Kodi Smit-McPhee has become a prolific young actor as of late, but his one role he performed that really stuck in my head was in Let Me In, where he befriended a young vampire. His role in Alpha was quite different, but shows how far he has come as an actor since that movie.

The setting is Europe, 20,000 years ago. Keda (Smit-McPhee) has recently proven to his father, Tau (Johannes Haukur Johannesson), the tribe leader, that he's ready to go hunting with the group, and Tau has high expectations for him. As Keda's mother says, though, he leads with his heart, not his spear, and he has trouble killing innocent animals, even though the point is to provide food for the tribe. When they go on a bison-hunting expedition, he falls over a ledge, and the tribe leaves him for dead; we find out later, however, that although he's injured, he's not dead. Keda must fix his injuries, provide food for himself, and somehow make it back to the tribe, before the land's harsh and cold winter sets in.

I'm going to throw this out there right away: this movie was entirely foreign language but with English subtitles, which I didn't realize going in. I'm not sure what language they're speaking, but it's something ancient. If that's an annoyance for you, you may want to skip this movie, but in my opinion, you shouldn't let that hinder you, as the film is very good.

In a way, this movie almost reminded me of 127 Hours, in that Keda is badly injured, in an inhospitable environment, and yet must somehow survive and also thrive. Smit-McPhee is excellent in the role, and plays it like an actor much older than his (real-life) 22 years of age. Along the way, he picks up a friend (a wolf dog - I believe it's a wolf, but it looks and behaves much like a dog) who eventually becomes his protector and best friend.

Yes, see this movie. The cinematography in it is entrancing, and the story is very interesting, as well. I saw the film in 3D and the 3D was also excellent, so I'd recommend seeing it in 3D if possible. I'm not usually one who minds subtitles (in fact, I usually put on subtitles at home for English-speaking TV shows and movies) so the subtitles here didn't bother me, although I will say the trailer did not let on that the ENTIRE movie is subtitled. If you enjoy coming of age movies, adventure films, or movies about pre-historic times, you will enjoy Alpha, and I'd recommend seeing it in the theater to get the entire cinematographic experience.

Alpha is in theaters today, August 17th, and is rated PG-13 with a runtime of 96 minutes. 4 stars out of 5.

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