See "Alpha"--It's 20,000 years old.

Aug 27, 2018

A conventional story told with grace and understatement.


Grade: B+

Director: Albert Hughes (The Book of Eli)

Screenplay: Daniele Sebastian Wiedenhaupt

Cast: Kodi Smit-McPhee (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes), Johannes Haukur Johannesson (Atomic Blonde)

Rating: PG 13

Runtime: 1 hr 36 min

by John DeSando

“He leads with his heart, not his spear.” Rho (Natassia Malthe)         

Keda’s (Kodi Smitt-McPhee) mother, Rho, in Alpha, has the sense to know that her son is not of the alpha-male persuasion, at least as he could be expected to be 20,000 years ago in the last Ice Age. His sensitive nature, however, allows him to save a wild wolf and proceed to begin a relationship most cherished by civilized men and women down the ages—a boy and his dog.

Director/story writer Albert Hughes has not before done a feature length film before, so he is starting out strong with this beautifully photographed adventure overlain with soul. However, he does not overdo the sentimentality in favor of the survival story that chronicles a lost son’s return to his family with a friendly wolf who will start the warm and mutually beneficial connection with humans that has endured and doubtless will forever.

Although the film begins with natives stampeding mastodons over a cliff and hyenas threatening anyone they can get near enough to, the focus is almost always on the mutual dependency and affection that slowly builds in a most believable way. For a conventional story about a boy and his dog, named Alpha, this film takes a new path to a lack of sentimentality and an honest détente between two species who need each other and grow to love each other through mutual dependency.

Aphoristic dad, Tau (Johannes Haukur Johannesson), intones like this:  “Life is for the strong. It is earned, not given.” He strikingly looks like a young Orson Welles. As such, he has an extra gravity which overcomes skepticism that a 20,000 year old man could ever speak like this.

So, suspend your disbelief and enjoy a summer adventure, with your beloved dog in the front seat if you’re lucky enough to have a drive in. Come to think of it, that nostalgia feels like The Ice Age. 

“Raise your head, and your eyes will follow.” Tau

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at