Alpha Review

Life was hard 20,000 years ago. Keda’s (Kodi Smit-McPhee) father is the leader of a European tribe and expects his son to follow in his warrior footsteps. Keda, who shies away from violence, is injured on a hunt and left for dead. On his treacherous journey home he makes a surprising friend: an equally injured wolf.

by Olly Richards |
Published on
Release Date:

24 Aug 2018

Original Title:


The films of the Hughes Brothers — Menace II Society, From Hell, The Book Of Eli — have always had violence running through them and an element of battling for survival. Albert’s first film without his brother Allen keeps both, but is softer, and more family-friendly.


This is the not-at-all-true story of the beginning of the friendship between man and dog. In the second half of the Paleolithic period, when man was sophisticated enough to have language and weapons but still a way off building houses, a teenage boy named Keda (a barely recognisable Kodi Smit-McPhee) is being groomed for warrior greatness by his father, tribe-leader Tau (Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson). Keda is not well suited to hunting, leading, as his mother puts it, “with his heart, not his spear”. His reluctance to hurt any living thing gets him thrown off a cliff, assumed dead, during a bison hunt. As he struggles to find his way home, Keda is attacked by a wolf pack, barely escaping by severely injuring one. Keda’s natural nurturing instinct moves him to help the wolf, rather than kill it, and the two become gradual, tentative companions.

Even if you’re more of a cat person, there’s plenty that should appeal.

Hughes backs away from any cutesiness in that set-up, always making clear that this is a savage world where survival can never be taken for granted. He shows the bond between Keda and Alpha, as the boy names his wolf, growing as much through mutual need for protection as affection. Fun scenes of Keda trying to give his reluctant pal a bath are contrasted with terse battles for domination over food. This isn’t My Dog Skip in caveman drag.

It’s a very linear story, a simple journey home adventure, cleanly directed by Hughes and beautifully shot by Martin Gschlacht. Even if you’re more of a cat person, there’s plenty that should appeal in this tale of man’s first best friend.

If it’s surprisingly sweet-sounding subject matter for Albert Hughes’ first solo film, he treats it with respectful seriousness. It’s a family movie but one unafraid to show some very sharp teeth.
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