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Alpha Movie Review

Reviewed by on Aug 17, 2018
Rating: 4 Star Rating

Kidzworld reviews Alpha, the story of a young guy and his....wolf. Ever wonder how humans and dogs bonded? This film tells the tale. Is it warm-hearted enough for your trip to the cineplex?

By: Lynn Barker

If you’ve got the back-to-school blues, check out the story of Ice Age teen Keda (Kodi Smit-McPhee) who almost dies trying to learn how to hunt. Talk about a tough “class”. If it weren’t for his meeting and finally bonding with an injured wolf, the boy and his dog tales we know today might never have been told. Until Keda makes a wolf his friend, tribes thought of “dogs” as threats and competition for prey. Their integration into human families as Man’s best friend (and hunting dogs) took a brave young man’s trek to adulthood.

Keda's mom worries that he's not ready for the huntKeda's mom worries that he's not ready for the huntCourtesy of Sony Pictures

Coming-of-age Ritual

In the film Alpha, it’s 20,000 years ago in Ice Age Europe and it is time for chief’s son Keda to make the transition to manhood by joining his tribe’s hunt for ancient buffalo. First the young men of the tribe compete in making stone spearheads. Keda’s is the best. Those passing this and other tests will go on their first hunt. After other tribal ceremonies, Keda is ready. His mom warns his dad that Keda leads with his heart, not his spear. He’s not ready. Dad says he will have to prove himself as a leader.

Keda's dad will send him on the huntKeda's dad will send him on the huntCourtesy of Sony Pictures

The Big Hunt

On the trail to buffalo territory, Keda tries to make fire with a stick and is unsuccessful. After joining up with another tribe, the group follows huge rock piles created by the ancestors to lead the way to the hunting ground. When a wild pig is injured, dad asks Keda to “finish it”. Seeing the animal’s fear, he can’t. Dad is disappointed. He wants his son to be an Alpha male, a leader. In the night, Keda’s friend is grabbed and killed by a saber-toothed tiger. Keda gets a tattoo on his hand in the shape of certain stars. Dad says he can always match it to the sky and find his way home.

Wooly Mammoths in the Ice AgeWooly Mammoths in the Ice AgeCourtesy of Sony Pictures

Over the Cliff and Beyond

When the tribe finds a big buffalo herd, Keda is almost trampled, gets hooked on a buffalo’s horn and is tossed over a huge cliff! He lands on a ledge halfway down but is unconscious and thought to be dead. The tribe mourns him and….leaves! When a vulture starts to peck at Keda, he wakes and panics. He tries to climb down but there is a huge storm and he ends up falling into deep flash flood waters below. He survives. His foot is badly hurt and he limps back to the top of the cliff only to realize that he is totally alone.

Alpha by the tree where the pack drove KedaAlpha by the tree where the pack drove KedaCourtesy of Sony Pictures

Wolf Encounter

A pack of wolves chases Keda up a huge dead tree where he sleeps in relative safety but has to stab one of the wolves on the leg to get it to back off. Injured, it lies below him all night as the rest of the pack leaves. Again, Keda feels sorry for the animal and can’t kill it. He ties its mouth shut and carries it to safety in a cave where both boy and wolf improve. Keda is able to kill a rabbit to eat and actually make a fire to cook it. He shares it with the wolf who, at first, growls but then drinks the water offered and eats.

Keda and Alpha start to bondKeda and Alpha start to bondCourtesy of Sony Pictures

The Long Trek

Using the stars on his hand as a guide, Keda starts for home knowing that the first snows will fall soon and he might freeze to death. The wolf starts to follow him and won’t go away. Eventually Keda names the wolf Alpha and together they are able to hunt and kill a wild pig for dinner. They swim and play together and when it snows, they cuddle up together to keep warm. The wolf pack returns and Alpha greets it and reluctantly goes with it. Keda is left lonely again. When Keda falls through thin ice and almost drowns, it is Alpha who pulls him out. They are reunited.

Keda and Alpha start the long trek homeKeda and Alpha start the long trek homeCourtesy of Sony Pictures


In a cave, Alpha fights off another saber-toothed cat. Keda kills it but Alpha is injured. Keda picks up his new friend and starts carrying Alpha toward home. At one point the two collapse but get up, exhausted and keep going. Will Keda and Alpha make it home? Will the bond of man and wolf/dog continue?

Keda and Alpha try fishingKeda and Alpha try fishingCourtesy of Sony Pictures

Wrapping Up

Alpha gives us an origin myth to explain the beginning of the man/dog bond. The movie is sometimes a bit rough and raw but always emotionally satisfying and visually stunning…especially shots of amazingly clear and close-looking stars which, of course, in the days of no pollution, would look like that. There is a lot of walking toward home but plenty of danger and doggie/teen boy bonding along the way to keep us interested.

Keda must fend for himselfKeda must fend for himselfCourtesy of Sony Pictures

Kodi Smit-McPhee (Nightcrawler in X-Men: Apocalypse, The Road and horror film Let Me In) succeeds in using nothing but his expressive face and some supposed Ice Age language to successfully win our hearts. He expresses the big changes in Keda’s life well. The shy boy becomes an Alpha leader just like his canine buddy.

Keda will share his pig feast with AlphaKeda will share his pig feast with AlphaCourtesy of Sony Pictures

Alpha would most work for older tweens and teens. Younger movie goers might have trouble reading all the subtitles that translate the fictional Ice Age language Keda and his tribe speak. There are a few scary moments when animals on the prowl for prey attack and hey, life in the Ice Age was tough. The tribe does what it can to survive and some of that isn’t pretty but don’t let this stop you, your BFFs and family from going. The movie does have a warm and fuzzy ending.

Keda with a wolf pupKeda with a wolf pupCourtesy of Sony Pictures

After you see this movie, when you cuddle up with your puppy, you might remember that his ancestors were wolves and it took a brave teen to make a wolf his buddy. If you can, see the movie on a big IMAX screen. We give it four stars.

Alpha Movie Review: 4

Alpha Movie PosterCourtesy of Sony Pictures

Alpha is in theaters now.

Have Your Say

Hey, Alpha is the kind of film that can get some cool conversations going. Do you believe that humans and dogs are so bonded because their wolf ancestors were able to make friends with Mankind?  Do you think most people would protect their canine companion if they were starving and maybe dying or in an impossible situation, would they consider making the animal dinner? Do you think modern-day wolves should be protected? Start a group conversation by leaving us a comment!