Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

"Sentimental tosh" | Photo: Sony Pictures

The fashion in junior movies is to reboot successful animated features into real live people pleasers. It seldom, if ever, works. Now it requires to go into reverse because this is a cartoon plot, made to look idiotic by its attempt at authenticity.

The location is out there in post caveman isolation. A tribe of nomadic hunter gatherers who live in yurts and talk a funny language (subtitles) wear anoraks with fur collars and hoodies and trousers, not moleskin but some other skin, that in failing light resemble muddy chinos. As for footwear it's apres ski snow boots with leather soles and, let's not forget, man bags. Some of the guys are clean shaven, like Mel Gibson in Braveheart. No sign of an electric toothbrush, however, although the camp fires have the glaze of paraffin about them.

Copy picture

The leader of the tribe is constantly aware of his image and the importance of looking strong. He's not a bully and doesn't tell lies but he understands that perception is nine tenths of the law.

"Pain will journey with us," he says in all seriousness. "To survive we must focus."

His problem is not the bison stampede that comes next but his son Keda (Kodi Smit-McPhee) who is showing signs of being a mummy's boy and doesn't appreciate being the son of the chief because he's not like his dad. He finds killing distasteful. He's not a vegan. Not yet.

"Raise your head and your eyes will follow," his dad says.

Good advice except when Keda goes on the bison hunt, against his mother's wishes, and is tossed over a cliff by one of the enraged beasts. Everyone thinks he's a goner and so return home in a state of shock.

He lives!

What follows is sentimental tosh. Keda landed on a ledge 50ft from the ground. Suddenly it rains. The ground is covered by a raging torrent. Keda leaps and is neither swept away nor drowned. The weather improves. Keda has a broken ankle. Hobble, hobble. He is lost, injured and starving. Chances of survival?

Watch on.

He makes friends with a wounded wolf. It's the lion with the thorn in its paw parable all over again. Together they take on attacks from wilder animals, unspeakable blizzards, even Keda falling through the ice on a frozen lake. Every night he makes fire. Obviously he carries dry straw on his person, even under the ice, and his fingers don't freeze without gloves.

In cartoons imagination rules and you can get away with a lot of stuff. With actual people and a huge support team of special effects magicians it needs to look possible.

Nothing in Alpha looks possible.

Reviewed on: 24 Aug 2018
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Alpha packshot
Ice age survival drama involving a wounded teenager and an injured wolf
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Director: Albert Hughes

Writer: Daniele Sebastian Wiedenhaupt

Starring: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson, Natassia Malthe, Leonor Varela, Jens Hultén, Mercedes de la Zerda, Spencer Bogaert, Priya Rajaratnam, Marcin Kowalczyk, Patrick Flanagan, Michael Kruse-Dahl, Kyle Glenn Sutherland, Louis Lay, Taran Kootenhayoo and the voice of Morgan Freeman

Year: 2018

Runtime: 96 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: United States


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