24 August 2018

Film Review - Alpha (2018)

If one considers some of the absolute dreck released recently by Sony Pictures recently: The Emoji Movie, Jack and Jill, Pixels, Sausage Party, plus any of the recent, risible Adam Sandler vehicles, it’s actually something of a small miracle that Alpha exists. A relatively small-scale, quaint even, story about a cave boy and his dog, playing out in a fictional language, with what would seem like very little widespread commercial appeal. It’s not a balls-to-the-wall action piece or a comic book movie, it’s an attempt to do something a little bit different and Sony should be commended for that.

Set in Paleolithic Europe, a tribe of hunter-gatherers embark on their annual bison hunt, traversing across miles of inhospitable wilderness to track down the herd. While out on his first hunt, the son of the tribe chief becomes separated, lost and left, presumed dead. Attacked by a pack of wolves, the boy is forced to team up with an initially-hostile wolf to survive the elements and make it back to his tribe.

The chief concern here is that it’s a bit narratively obvious. Early lectures about the need to find inner courage seem to act as a prediction for the path of the protagonist, so watching it feels a little like joining the dots. Plot-wise there are no curve-balls or surprises worth a mention and everything seems to unfold in exactly the manner you’d predict, or fear, from about the first fifteen minutes.

On the plus side, it is home to some startling, and occasionally breathtaking, imagery. The vistas regularly look great and there are moments when the movie slows down and slips into a dream-like state of reflection as stars morph into figures and time seems to stand still. It’s in these occasional moments that the movie lifts itself into something more engaging and interesting than the narrative would have you believe. Ultimately, it’s pretty brave movie and a welcome attempt to provide something for younger viewers beyond the usual Saturday morning, hyperactive sensory Blitzkrieg, and for that it deserves applause, even it doesn’t always challenge the viewer narratively.

Chris Banks |★★★

Adventure, Drama | USA, 2017 | 12A | 24th August 2018 (UK) | Subtitles | Sony Pictures Releasing | Dir.Albert Hughes | Kodi Smit-McPhee, Natassia Malthe, Leonor Varela, Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson

Chris has created a video review with Harry Davenport, it's fun, film reviewing ala drinking game style...

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