This story of man’s first interaction with a dog turns out to be a winner if 1) you’re a dog person, and 2) you can watch a movie set 20,000 years ago and believe that the inhabitants could have such stylish leather jackets. The jackets look pretty cool, made of buffalo hide, I presume, with stylish fur collars. I think I would buy one if I saw it on Amazon (with fake fur and leather, of course). No way somebody without a sewing machine could’ve put these things together way back then. If so, they were the Versace of their day. Directed by Albert Hughes (From Hell, Menace II Society), this is a sweet hypothetical story about a long-ago boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee), lost in the wilderness after a hunting trip gone awry, befriending a wolf. It’s not a syrupy sweet story; the two go through a sort of hell trying to find the boy’s homeland during the onset of winter. But if you are a dog person, and I am, the gradual warming of their relationship as they rely on one another to survive is nothing short of adorable and powerful. Hughes doesn’t simply rely on his sweet story to score a win with this one. His movie is often gorgeous, featuring majestic landscapes, excellent CGI work, and a damn fine dog as the title character. Smit-McPhee—the boy who cried “Poppa!” in The Road—is on screen for most every scene, relegated to a fake caveman language for his dialogue. All said, he delivers some career best work here, and sufficiently carries the human half of Alpha’s story. Cavemen movies usually suck. 10,000 BC …sucked. Caveman starring Ringo Starr … sucked. Quest for Fire starring a pre-Hellboy Ron Perlman … really sucked. So it’s refreshing to see a film set in prehistoric times that actually engages, provides some thrills and warms the heart.

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