Stick with this one.

by Martin Hafer

For the first half or so of Alpha Alert, I was only mildly interested in the film.  Fortunately, the second half, while seemingly wildly paranoid, is very exciting and must be based, to some degree, on studies the government did on soldiers in the 1950s and 60s.

The film is set at some sort of VA-type clinic where three soldiers are all receiving treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.  On their way out of the building, the three enter an elevator together but the elevator stops soon after they hear what sounds like an explosion.  Slowly, the begin to learn what seems to be happening—a dirty bombs have been unleashed on the Washington, DC area and the city is in panic.  While Captain White becomes increasingly angry at not receiving help, oddly, Private Oldsman becomes surly, disrespectful and increasingly psychotic.

Alpha Alert
Directed by
Matthew Thompson
Jennifer Morrison, Josh Stewart, Stephen Rider
Release Date
17 June 2014
Martin’s Grade: B

Fortunately, Private Diego is there to prevent Oldsman from doing any violence towards the female Captain—as Oldsman seems to hate women in authority.  At this point, it’s all just a tense waiting game until help can arrive.  However, as time passes, they learn more about the atomic fallout from the bomb and it looks like help might not be coming after all!  At this point, Oldsman has become even more imbalanced—and almost anything can push him over the edge.  Soon, the lights go out temporarily—and when the lights return, Diego is dead and it looks like White is next!  Can she avoid becoming the next victim?  And what about the dirty bombs—will there be more and what damage did they already do?  I could easily say a lot more about the plot but it would ruin the film.  The bottom line is that there is far more to this story than I have already told you—and that ‘far more’ is what makes the film so interesting.

The main strength of this film is the acting.  Although I’ve seen none of these actors in other projects, they did great work.  Likewise, the director, Matthew Thompson, did some fine work eliciting these performances and creating LOTS of tension—but he’s someone whose work I haven’t seen before, though I suspect with films like Alpha Alert, I will.

As far as weaknesses go, the film does use several clichés.  The worst is what they do to the black man in the film.  While I am FAR from politically correct and don’t get offended easily, it was a cheap shot to take the main black character and have him be the victim.  Chef on South Park commented on this cliché—and I sure could see it here!  I would love to have seen him either be the hero officer or the psychotic killer—these would have been thinking outside the formulaic box.  Additionally, some (not me) might blanche at the film’s very paranoid message—though I found myself very willing to believe what was happening up to the end of the film.

So is this a film for you?  I doubt if the average person would think to watch the film but I do think most people would enjoy it.  It’s a bit too tense and violent for younger audiences.  The ones I’d really love to hear from are military and ex-military viewers.  What would they think about the film and the twisted ending?  I’d love to say more.  My suggestion is that you see the film and then think about all this.  It’s well worth seeing and original…even with its minor problems.