Alpha Director’s Cut is out now and, before watching this, and upon realising in the menus, I didn’t even know there was a Director’s Cut version of this film as it’s not listed on the packshot. Similarly, IMDB doesn’t list any alternative version, but just to confirm, the Theatrical version runs 96 minutes and 30 seconds, while the Director’s Cut… runs 95 minutes and 19 seconds. Also, the director’s cut is ONLY available on the Blu-ray release, which also contains the theatrical if you did prefer that one.
It’s rare (but not unheard of) that the Director’s Cut is the shorter version, and in some cases they can be wildly different, such as Arrow’s release of Raising Cain, but I saw the Movie Censorship site gives a detailed comparison between the two, so rather than spoil the film for myself, I checked all that out AFTER I watched the movie and, instead, just glanced at the accompanying text and noted this “The director’s cut is clearly the better edited version of the movie.”
I’ll leave the rest of the text out to avoid spoilers, but if you’ve seen it, then do check out that link.
As for the film itself, young lad Keda (Kodi Smit-McPhee) gets separated from his family after a battle with a pack of Steppe bison, but still proving himself ever resourceful, he puts a brave face on a broken foot and also befriends an angry wolf he chances across. The title comes from the fact that ‘Alpha’ is the wisest wolf in the pack, and in a Disney-style, the only way the pair might survive is if they work together. So, yes, it’s a bit ‘Dances With Wolf’.
Alpha has some incredibly glorious visuals, and it would’ve been great to see those on the big screen, but of course, it would’ve been the regular version and NOT the Director’s Cut. At least at home, you can, instead, get close up to the screen. However, this isn’t another Koyaanisqatsi, as they do have to fit a plot in around what you see.
There’s decent CGI for the animals, too, and it’s fairly seamless, but it’s unfortunate that all too often, this film really is so damn boring since it looks great, but it doesn’t feel like it has too much to say.
It will, however, make you say, “Bleah!” when you see the family camouflaging themselves in bison dung so they can hunt them.
On the plus side, at times it feels like a nature documentary but *without* any pretend-preachy environmental message.
Note that while the Portuguese and Spanish dialogue versions are dubbed, the ‘English’ version is actually in the original Solutrean language, given that this film is representing the language of the people who lived around 22,000 to 17,000 BC, and this film is set 20,000 years ago. Don’t write it off on the basis of requiring subtitles if you’re not into foreign language films, however, as it’s mostly dialogue-free. In fact, like 2018’s Iceman, you could get the gist of it without subtitles.
The credits list Morgan Freeman as the narrator. I never heard his voice, but if you play the theatrical version, he does pop up there. Quite frankly, it’s unnecessary because the script for it is very much cringey ‘narration by numbers’. I can also see that the buffalo hunt is introduced at the start in that version, but at the crucial point (which I won’t reveal here), the action freezes and we get a Hollywood-style “One week earlier” caption, at which point we see what leads up to this, until around 27 minutes when it rejoins the chronology – repeating some of the earlier content. Sadly, this omits the stomach-churning ankle break which is still in the Director’s Cut – that bit I spotted, but the Movie Censorship site reminds me that I missed how the theatrical version digitally reduces the slightly-more-bloody facial injury sustained by Keda.
Note also that the Director’s Cut ONLY has the language in Solutrean (English option), with no dubbed options.
Starting with my first new Blu-ray release of 2019, from now on, I’m only going to go into detail about the picture and sound if there’s something to comment upon that I’ve not already covered in my review, above, as a lot of the time, either it’s a modern release shot on digital film and looks flawless and/or I’m saying the same sorts of things, and when it comes the audio and video format used in the release, the info is already covered in the summary further down, along with my scores for the presentation.
The extras are as follows:
- Deleted/Alternate Scenes (9:09): Five of them, each with optional director’s commentary, including a slightly different alternate opening and ending.
- Boy & Wolf (4:56): This featurette sets the trend for the rest with its fairly generic style, mixing clips with cast & crew soundbites. The on-set footage is interesting, though, so you can see what was real and what was fake.
- Building the world (7:34): A look at the impressive visuals, the Solutrean language and the costumes.
- A Hero’s Journey (4:55): Covers similar info already seen.
- Meet Chuck: The Wolf Behind Alpha (2:14): And here’s the wolf.
- Audio description: does exactly what it says on the tin.
The menu is typical Sony with just a still of the packshot with a piece of generic music playing over and over again. There are 16 chapters, and subtitles come in seven languages: English SDH, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish.
Running time: 96:30 / 95:19 minutes
Studio: Sony Pictures
Released: January 7th 2019
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Languages: DTS-HD MA 5.1: Solutrean (English option), Portuguese, Spanish
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish
Format: 2.39:1 (ARRIRAW (6.5K), Dolby Vision)
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Albert Hughes
Producers: Albert Hughes, Andrew Rona
Screenplay: Daniele Sebastian Wiedenhaupt and Albert Hughes
Music: Joseph S DeBeasi, Michael Stearns
Keda: Kodi Smit-McPhee
Tau: Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson
Sigma: Marcin Kowalczyk
Xi: Jens Hultén
Rho: Natassia Malthe
Kappa: Spencer Bogaert
Nu: Mercedes de la Zerda
Shaman Woman: Leonor Varela
Narrator: Morgan Freeman
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.