‘Alpha’ review: The Revenant-esque survival tale that’s no great shakes

We’ve witnessed a gut wrenching-yet-awe-inspiring survival drama on multiple occasions in the past. But Albert Hughes’ Alpha, treads the well-trodden path with an added dimension of mankind and canine’s first of its kind friendship, developed after a series of unforgiving circumstances braved by Keda (Kodi Smith-McPhee, of X-Men Apocalypse fame) and a wolf hybrid of the Siberian husky. Set in the paleolithic period in Europe about 20,000 years ago, our protagonist Keda is separated from his tribe while hunting down the bisons when one of those bison hounds him in rage and throws him off a steep cliff. He takes several blows on his way down before crash landing on a narrow ledge of the cliff. Unconscious, his tribal cohorts presume him to be dead and continue on their journey. Now Keda, who soon resuscitates, is left all alone in the sprawling terrain of the European hinterland with the much-maligned ice age dawning upon. With no shelter in the horizon to take refuge in and no food to feed himself, he sets out to reunite with his family again and strikes a bond with a canine – that he later christens as Alpha – along the way. Although Hughes does a commendable job of meticulously capturing a whole gamut of emotions: grief, pain, anger, love and finally redemption, the build-up to each scenario is harried, so much so that the movie, for the better part of it’s 95-minutes runtime, merely constitutes different set-pieces strung together to successfully reach the climax and accomplish its narrative. The protagonists are simply made to go through a series of distressing and deadly weather conditions (particularly snowy as it’s set in the ice age) in the no man’s land with virtually nothing linking one scene to the next. 2016’s Leonardo DiCaprio-starrer The Revenent too, is a survival epic that portrays how a severely bruised man endures tough conditions before eventually attaining revenge. However, a stark difference lies in the former’s patient and unhurried tempo with which it gradually establishes it purpose. Of course, you shouldn’t be taking 160 minutes to do it either, but the attention to detail by Alejandro Inarritu was inimitable. Slow and steady, the movie expertly captures every aspect of the travails of DiCaprio’s character without ever getting on the skates. Alpha does its best in this regard as it’s urgency is undeniable, but still leaves a lot to be desired. The VFX, on the other hand, is just good enough. The opening sequence glides through the wilderness; through its green pastures to the waterfall, which are pretty much the best bit of visuals you’ll see. A scene wherein Keda and Alpha halt amid the torrential snow to catch a nap, is pretty good too. Since this is set in the stone age, it wouldn’t be fair to expect too much visuals either. So Alpha scores some brownie points there. Almost every scene of the film involves Smith-McPhee, who’s done a good job here, while there really isn’t a supporting cast to talk of. Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson plays his father Tau, the chief of the tribe, and the only other major character in the film, but is a great presence whenever on-screen. Hughes does manage to produce some beautiful and heart-warming moments between a man and a canine, but that’s too few and far between to actually tug at your heart strings. It’s quiet a nondescript affair to actually keep yourself invested throughout Keda’s journey and vouch for him. But you can give it a try if you have an hour and half to kill.