The place: an unspecified region of Europe. The time: 20,000 years ago, at the tail end of the final Ice Age. A band of early homo sapiens travel the countryside hunting the prehistoric buffalo swarming through the landscape, occasionally losing one of their own to carnivorous predators or the elements. A boy gets separated from his pack after falling into a crevasse, but survives with serious injuries. His harrowing journey to live another day and reunite with his clan acquaints him with a roving wolf, whose respect he must gradually earn if he hopes to make it through the winter. A strong bond forms between the two, their shared impulse for preservation transcending the divides between their species.

This is the story of Alpha, an upcoming thriller-drama entering the public eye today with a newly released trailer. X-Men: Apocalypse actor Kodi Smit-McPhee (a wonderful, tense young presence in Slow West, too) portrays the nameless cave-boy, joined in the cast by Game of Thrones’ Johannes Haukur Johanneson. They’re both directed by Albert Hughes, here working without his brother and usual partner-in-crime, who’s apparently brought a real sense of visual distinction to the film. The trailer’s pretty easy on the eyes, using color and soft light to create the sort of primitive, early-Earth atmosphere this film’s setting calls for. Better still, the trailer goes light on the dialogue — it’d seem that most of Smit-McPhee’s journey with his canine pal will be entirely wordless, which is a wise move.

Alpha won’t come to American theaters until March 2 of next year, but if this turns out to be as good as it looks, it’ll be a valuable breaker for the customary post-Oscar-ceremony slump at cineplexes. I, for one, am prepared to answer this call of the wild.

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