By: Rohn Romulo
YOUNG Australian actor Kodi Smit-McPhee (“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”, “Let Me In,” “X-Men: Apocalypse”) provides the crucial human element in Columbia Pictures’ new epic adventure, ALPHA (in Philippine cinemas September 5).
Set in the last Ice Age, ALPHA tells a fascinating, visually stunning story that shines a light on the origins of man’s best friend. While on his first hunt with his tribe’s most elite group, a young man named Keda (Smit-McPhee) is injured and must learn to survive alone in the wilderness. Reluctantly taming a lone wolf abandoned by its pack, the pair learn to rely on each other and become unlikely allies, enduring countless dangers and overwhelming odds in order to find their way home before winter arrives.
Seventeen-year-old Keda is a Solutrean, part of a creative, resourceful Cro-Magnon tribe living in the area we know as southern France and Spain at the end of the last Ice Age, when most of Europe was uninhabitable, covered in ice two miles deep. Glacial winds blew. Winters were brutal and lasted nine months. Dangerous predators roamed the vast, unpopulated landscapes in search of food. The isolation was extreme, and bonds of family and community were essential for survival.
The casting of Keda was of vital importance, because for a large part of the movie, he is the only human character onscreen, and one-half of a carefully knit relationship that needed to cover a lot of emotional ground: from ingrained distrust to hard-won friendship.
Kodi Smit-McPhee’s measure of a script, when he reads it for the first time, is where it hits him in his heart and his emotions. “I’ve been doing a lot of modern tales and I’ve been waiting for something that deals with earth and mother nature” says the Australian actor.
Smit-McPhee, who at twenty is already a veteran film actor, has been making his own journey from boyhood to manhood onscreen. “I always find a pattern with the characters I play,” he says. “They are quite vulnerable, coming of age, and eventually transformed at the end, but this has been the transformation on the biggest scale.”
“When you see Kodi on the monitor,” says actor Mercedes de la Zerda, who plays a fellow hunter, “you see the subtleties in his work and it blows you away. It’s just him and a handful of words in two-thirds of the movie. To have found a talent who can communicate so much, just in body language and to have so much of an inner life happening without dialogue is a major accomplishment.”
“Kodi is a deeply and naturally gifted actor,” says director Albert Hughes. “His instincts are very mature, and he doesn’t come from an intellectual place when he’s acting. He comes from an emotional place. He comes from the character, so he’s really exciting. I’d say he’s leaps and bounds above a lot of guys his age. Then, when I see a close-up, I go ‘God! This guy is really special.’”
ALPHA is distributed in the Philippines by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.