August 17, 2018


Rin Tin Tin Revenant

Grade: C +
Director: Albert Hughes
Starring: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson, and Jens Hultén
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hr. 36 min.

A film that lends new meaning to the dog days of summer movies, Alpha is set in Europe 20,000 years ago near the end of the last Ice Age and supposes to tell a tale about advent of the relationship between man and man’s best friend. Ultimately, however, this Paleolithic parable is an unmemorable journey to an inevitable end.

Keda (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is the son of his Cro-Magnon tribe’s chief, Tau (Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson). Keda is a sensitive sort, reluctant to even slit the throat of a wild boar, a long ways from one day becoming his tribe’s alpha. While out hunting Steppe bison, Keda is gored and tossed over the edge of a cliff, landing unconscious on an inaccessible ledge. Assuming his son is dead, a grief-stricken Tau erects a memorial and leaves Keda for the vultures. But Keda awakens, and despite a broken ankle, he embarks on an odyssey home through Mother Nature’s obstacles. One danger comes from a pack of wolves that see Keda as an easy snack. Keda knifes the leader, causing the others to scatter. Instead of killing the Canis lupus, Keda nurses it back to health, thereby forging a symbiotic bond as both boy and beast help each other cope with threats from predators and the encroaching winter.

It’s The Revenant meets Rin Tin Tin, and the story feels every bit as derivative. Director Albert Hughes (one-half of the erstwhile Hughes brothers filmmaking team) tries to infuse the film with a sense of gritty realism, including using an unidentifiable pre-civilization language with subtitles. But the sweeping landscapes and even Keda’s wolf are enhanced with a distracting amount of CGI that erdoes the verisimilitude.

Alpha merits an A for ambition, but its execution feels like one long slog through the snow. By the time Keda and his canine reach their trail’s end, the audience will like the ones lost in the wilderness.

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