Alpha: A love letter to our four-legged friends

Alpha came to theaters Labor Day weekend. The movie is about the relationship between humans and wolves and how a wild animal became one of our closest friends. It demonstrates this through a young man named Keda and a wolf he calls Alpha and their struggle to survive after being left by their respective families.

The movie begins 20,000 years ago and follows a tribe of people preparing for their annual hunt. The hunting party includes two young men, one of which is the Chief’s son, Keda. Keda’s father relishes the opportunity to begin training his child to take care of the tribe while on the hunt but often finds that Keda doesn’t quite live up to the standards. During the hunt Keda, ends up severely injured and his tribe assumes he’s dead, resulting in them abandoning him.

One of the most interesting things is the minimalistic script. The whole movie actually has very little dialogue. In an interview with Soundbites, the lead actor Kodi Smit-McPhee, said, “It’s actually a very easy read” but he was quick to add that, “some of the simplest scenes in the script are actually the hardest to act.” He also commented that he was very excited to do this movie because a lot of his previous work has been “modern” and he appreciated the opportunity to do something more “grounded in nature.”

There is an interesting Bildungsroman type feel to the whole story, as Keda, who we see fail at the adult challenges placed before him, finally comes into his own in no small part thanks to Alpha. One example of this is his apparent inability to follow through on killing an animal, even for survival. This changes when he meets Alpha because he realizes he has another mouth to feed. His mother claims that his failure to hunt is due to his predisposition to lead with his heart and not his spear, however, it is this same weakness that convinces him to take in Alpha after Alpha’s pack attacks him.

Of course, one of the biggest draws of Alpha is the animal factor. Kodi was asked about his co-star Chuck, the dog who actually plays Alpha and he told Soundbites that he did form a pretty close bond with the animal. They spent countless hours training together and learning each other’s boundaries. This was clearly displayed in the film itself as the two really do appear to be natural pack mates.

Overall, ALPHA is a marvelous, heartfelt story about the human/animal bond, filled with emotional highs and lows, not to mention a twist ending.  If you love dogs and are interested in seeing one interpretation of how we became such close companions, you should definitely take the time to go see Alpha.

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