(This review contains one spoiler that is important to bring up in the reviewing of this film. The paragraph containing the spoiler is highlighted in italics.)
An American film shot largely in Canada (Alberta and British Columbia) and in Iceland, ALPHA also includes lots of CG effects as evident in the endless long lists of names involved with CG in the closing credits.
ALPHA is set back in the Ice Age in Europe (it could be anywhere else for that matter) about a young man and his dog. It all begins after a Steppe bison hunting expedition gone awry. A young man struggles against the elements to find his way home, all the while developing a friendship with a wolf.
The film is co-produced and directed by Albert Hughes, with a screenplay by Daniele Sebastian Wiedenhaupt, from a story by Hughes. It is difficult to dislike a film about a man and his dog surviving the elements as evident by the rousing applause at the end of the promo screening. But good intentions aside, ALPHA contains too many flaws.
The main flaw is continuity. One major segment has Keda (Australian Kodi Smit-McPhee) hanging for dear life on a vertical rock face after falling off the cliff. Rain pours. The what seemed bottomless gorge is suddenly filled with water that allows Keda to fall in, to survive the fall. The next scene shows him lying on the ground with hardly any water to be seen. Following that, Keda, for no reason appears at the top of the cliff that he originally fell from. The film does not show him climbing back up to that level.
The wolf dog first appears only after more than half the film’s running time. Near the end, the canine is shown returning to the pack, but in the next scene is shown coming back to Keda.
The dialogue is incredibly corny. Though the actors speak in a made-up stone age language, the subtitles read: “Lead with your heart, not with your spear.” And at the end of the film, the father tells Keda: “You earned it, my son.”
Warning Spoiler: It turns out at the end of the film that the canine is a female. That is weird as the film title ALPHA implies the canine being an alpha male, especially when called to fight other larger animals to protect her master. If this in part of Hollywood’s need to have more female centred themes, the idea is ridiculous. Though personally, if I would have a choice of a male or female canine, I would pick the latter.
But in 3D and with all the location shots and CG effects, ALPHA is a feast for the eyes. The screen also fills with green in one scene, likely from a shot of the Northern Lights as seen in Iceland. The one famous glacier and waterfall in Iceland are both on display in the film as well.
ALPHA is all good looks but a total mess.