AL­PHA (PG)

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Gold Coast Eye - - MOVIES EYE - YOUNG AUS­TRALIAN STAR KODI SMIT-MCPHEE STARS IN AL­PHA, A STARK, YET STUN­NINGLY MOUNTED AD­VEN­TURE ODYSSEY.

WHAT YOU LIVE IS WHAT YOU PET DI­REC­TOR: AL­BERT HUGHES (BOOK OF ELI) STAR­RING: KODI SMIT-MCPHEE, JO­HANNES HAUKUR JOHANNESSON, NATASSIA MALTHE

Long be­fore dogs had their day – some 20,000 years ago, to be ex­act – an­other species had an im­pres­sive try­out for the job as man’s best friend.

This is the story of a hardy Arc­tic wolf named Al­pha, and how she bud­died-up big­time with Keda (Aus­tralian star Kodi SmitMcPhee), the only son of the chief of a no­madic tribe.

On his very first hunt­ing ex­pe­di­tion, Keda gets on the wrong side of a ram­pag­ing pack of bi­son and tum­bles over a ledge.

Pre­sumed dead and bereft of most key sur­vival skills, Keda is fac­ing an im­pos­si­bly epic jour­ney home un­til a chance en­counter with the kindly and clever Al­pha.

What fol­lows is a stark, yet stun­ningly mounted ad­ven­ture odyssey, wherein the boy and the wolf must meld minds to elude the dan­gers of a na­ture con­tin­u­ally con­spir­ing against them.

De­spite the movie’s un­con­ven­tional struc­ture where there is very lit­tle spo­ken di­a­logue, and what you do hear needs to be fur­ther de­coded with the aid of sub­ti­tles, it re­mains a cu­ri­ously in­volv­ing af­fair from start to fin­ish.

Plau­dits must go to McPhee for his ex­cel­lent an­chor­ing per­for­mance, par­tic­u­larly in Al­pha’s open­ing act, which amounts to his only real op­por­tu­nity to graft some much-needed char­ac­ter de­vel­op­ment on to his role as Keda.

His in­ter­ac­tions with other mem­bers of the tribe are the most telling, set­ting up how we per­ceive Keda will fare when fac­ing the world on his own.

His mother (Natassia Malthe) has reser­va­tions about Keda be­ing ready for the tribe’s big group hunt, ob­serv­ing her son “leads with his heart, not his spear”.

How­ever, Keda’s hard-headed fa­ther Tau (Jo­hannes Haukur Johannesson), is of the be­lief that “life is only for the strong”. The sooner his son learns this, the bet­ter equipped Keda will be to one day lead the tribe in his own right.

Once Keda is forced to go solo, SmitMcPhee’s sole co-star for the rest of the movie steps into frame with some re­mark­ably ex­pres­sive sup­port work. In the role of Al­pha, a very well-trained Czech wolfhound named Chuck ex­udes a noble em­pa­thy not of­ten de­tected in an­i­mal per­form­ers.

Younger view­ers (boys in par­tic­u­lar) will ef­fort­lessly plug into the Al­pha ex­pe­ri­ence on an easy-to-fol­low, comin­gof-Ice-Age level.

Older on­look­ers won’t mind it ei­ther as a shorter, sweeter ver­sion of The

Revenant, mi­nus the mur­ders and re­venge killings, of course.

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