Alpha answers one of mankind’s most burning questions: How did dogs learn to play fetch? As reductive a statement as that seems, this origin story of a boy and his dog answers that query. A lack of compelling leads—Kodi Smit-McPhee’s facial hair is way too distracting—or much narrative means stunning visuals are the main means of propelling this intensely brief film. Director Albert Hughes (one half of Menace II Society’s Hughes brothers) and cinematographer Martin Gschlacht devise a fictional feature film that resembles a National Geographic documentary on life during an ice age.
Virtually a foreign film, Alpha’s invented prehistoric language necessitates subtitles, which do not assist the lanky, blank Smit-McPhee, who winds up out-charmed by his co-star, Chuck the wolf-dog. Alpha takes an odd turn in humanity’s cinematic love affair with our canine friends, but those intrigued by primal tales like Quest for Fire and Clan of the Cave Bear will enjoy this way more than they did 10,000 BC.
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