Jerry Seinfeld, always the astute observer that he is, once said that if the aliens were to look down upon us with their large telescopes one day, they would think that all of humanity served a higher species known as the dogs. They would see us feeding them, petting them, bathing them and even picking up their poop after them. And I could not agree more ! I cannot think of any other animal that is given as much attention and love as dogs are. They are also perhaps the only animals that are so reciprocative of that love. Films like Hachi: A Dog’s Tale and A Dog’s Purpose tell poignant stories about this special relationship that we share with the doggos. But where did this age-old friendship start from ?
Director Albert Hughes takes you back on a journey that started 20,000 of years ago when we were merely hunter-gatherers. Mankind used to live in very small communities that would travel together from place to place in search of food, never settling at one place for longer than a season. Every pack would have a leader who would be responsible for taking the important decisions like who would be a part of the hunting party and who would stay back to protect the women and children. As simplistic as it may seem to be, it was a harsh life. They would only have rudimentary tools that they had created by sharpening stones and binding them with sticks to create knives and spears. However, they would barely stand a chance against the beasts that roamed the planet during that era.
Jerry Seinfeld, always the astute observer that he is, once said that if the aliens were to look down upon us with their large telescopes one day, they would think that all of humanity served a higher species known as the dogs. They would see us feeding them, petting them, bathing them and even picking up their poop after them. And I could not agree more !
During one of the hunts, the Chief’s son Keda gets mauled by a wildebeest and falls over a cliff, landing on a precarious ledge. As he lays there unconscious, his father, the Chief of the clan tries his best to reach to him but to no avail. After sitting at the edge looking at his unconscious boy for a whole day, his fellow-men convince him that the boy was beyond saving and that the Chief was needed by the clan. The group returns to their settlement and move on with their lives. Against all odds, Keda regains consciousness and finds himself precariously perched upon a ledge with a hundred foot drop below. He gathers his strength somehow and climbs down with a broken foot.
Winter is coming and he must return to the village before he freezes to death. Dragging his foot, Keda embarks on a journey towards his people. As he traverses the desolate land, he comes across a pack of wolves who try to attack him. With the last strength that he has, he fights back and injures one of them while the rest leave him. Instead of killing the creature that had tried to attack him just moments before, Keda ties its muzzle and falls into an exhausted sleep. As the days go by, the wolf doesn’t leave his side, following him around wherever he went. In his time of loneliness, the boy feels a certain kinship with the wolf. He feeds him while the wolf protects him from the unseen dangers in the night. But the village is far and the duo would have to endure a lot more before they reach home.
With very little dialogue in an obscure language, Alpha feels like a Nat Geo documentary complete with narrations at the start and the end by Morgan Freeman. Writer Daniele Wiedenhaupt adapts the story by Hughes into a screenplay that doesn’t sound like a history lesson despite its anthropological premise. The cinematography by Martin Gschlacht is breath-taking and adds a lot of character to the journey of the man and his new best friend. Kodi Smit-McPhee as Keda gives an authentic balance to the character as he fights his insecurities as a young boy who has to rise up to being the Chief’s son, and also one who finds himself to be stronger than he knew during the journey. This transformation is also one of the high-points of the story besides the friendship.
Alpha makes you think about how a chance occurrence changed the history of mankind. It seems like a huge claim to owe to the mere taming of an animal but the ancestors of the modern day dogs were not only the companions of hunters, they were their protectors as well. In a world where survival was a just a fleeting chance, wolves were like our guardian angels who literally made us live long. With longevity came a chance for a better life, and everything else followed. I am actually surprised that this story had not been made into a film before. Can someone make one about cats, please ?