Caveman films have never really been my favourite genre. "One Million Years BC", aka "Raquel Welch in a fur bikini", and its sequels from the late sixties and early seventies were at best entertaining nonsense and at worst just nonsense. The more recent "10,000 BC" was entertaining nonsense for the modern generation. It is so long since I last watched either "Quest for Fire" or "Clan of the Cave Bear" that I will not say much about them, but my memory is that both were rather dull.
And now we have "Alpha". The story is set around 20,000 BC. This is the ice age, so nobody wears a bikini, fur or otherwise. Although the film was shot in Canada, the action is supposed to take place in Europe, for obvious reasons. In 20,000 BC there were no humans in Canada or anywhere in the New World. The main character is Keda, a young hunter. During a bison hunt, Keda is thrown over the edge of a cliff, and although his fall is broken by a narrow ledge, the rest of the hunting party give him up for dead, much to the grief of his parents, Tau and Rho. (Apart from Keda himself, most of the characters are named after letters of the Greek alphabet, which is odd given that that alphabet was not devised until some 19,000 years after the action takes place).
Keda, of course, is not dead. (There wouldn't be much of a film if he were). He manages to make his way down alive to the foot of the cliff, and after some more adventures is attacked by a pack of wolves. Now, although they are the wild ancestors of man's beloved best friend, the domestic dog, wolves have generally had a bad press in fiction and folklore- Red Riding Hood, the Three Little Pigs, Brer Rabbit's enemy Brer Wolf and all that. There have, however, been occasional exceptions, such as Kipling's "Jungle Book", and "Alpha" proves to be another. Keda manages to fight off the wolves, injuring one in the process. His initial impulse is to kill the injured wolf, but he takes pity on it and cares for its injury. The relationship between man and wolf becomes one of uneasy cooperation, eventually becoming friendship, and Keda names his new friend "Alpha". (As will later become clear, however, Alpha is not the alpha male of the pack). The rest of the film follows the adventures of Keda and Alpha as he attempts to return to his tribe.
This film shares one feature with the old "fur bikini" school, and indeed with "Quest for Fire", namely the use of a specially constructed language, but whereas the language used in the fur bikini movies was crude in the extreme, consisting of no more than around a dozen words endlessly repeated, the one used here sounds a lot more like a natural human tongue, and we have subtitles to allow us to understand what is being said.
Filming took place in the winter and spring of 2016, but for some reason the film's release was delayed several times until it was finally released in August 2018, more than two years later. All I can say, however, is that it was well worth waiting for. The story is simple yet moving, the acting unaffected but effective and the cinematography of the wild British Columbia landscapes against which it was shot is breathtaking. Taken singly, any one of these qualities would have made this a film well worth watching; taken together they add up to something of a rare beauty and quality. I had never heard of director Albert Hughes before, but on this evidence he seems to be someone to watch out for. 9/10