Keoni Waxman has steadily been directing independent films for close to thirty years. So while he might not be a household name, Waxman has a long and storied career. The writer-director’s latest, co-written with Milan Friedrich, is the sci-fi tale Alpha Code. Given the proliferation of genre fare on streaming services, does Waxman offer something beyond more of the same?
Martin (Bren Foster) is taking a trip with his daughter, Teri (Sabina Rojková), after the disappearance of his wife/her mother. That night at the cabin, Martin is woken up to discover some unseen force is calling Teri into the woods. He tries chasing her down, but she vanishes, and Martin goes unconscious. He comes to in a hospital, where Agent Bowie (Randy Couture) blames him for his daughter vanishing. But, it isn’t before long that Martin comes to a startling revelation: it was aliens who took Teri and his wife.
In a desperate attempt to understand why the extraterrestrials chose him and his family, Martin teams up with Jo (Denise Richards) and Bowie’s former partner Lance (Marek Vasut). Jo remembers that someone was taken and recalls what the strangers from space looked like. However, she can’t figure out who was taken from her. Now, Jo and Martin must outrun the deranged and determined Bowie and figure out what the aliens want.
Alpha Code isn’t the usual alien abduction story, and it is all the better for it. The film isn’t focused on the abductions but on how the aftermath affects Martin, Jo, and the others. Friedrich and Waxman have written strong and engaging characters whose motivations always make sense. Aside from Bowie, audiences root for everyone and are on the edge of their seat to see how their respective arcs conclude.
“…Martin comes to a startling revelation: it was aliens who took Teri and his wife.”
To that end, the finale of the film works beautifully. Without spoiling things, the final 15 or 20 minutes are perfect and make total sense with everything that came before. While one of the revelations is easy to call, the ever-important “why” will pull at one’s heartstrings. It’s stunning how fantastic the ending is.
Though not everything with Alpha Code works as swimmingly. Agent Bowie’s real motivations are left intentionally murky until the film is almost over. This makes the main antagonist a bit boring for a lot of the runtime, but that changes a bit by the end. A rewatch might make this a non-issue, but upon first viewing, Bowie is bland, especially compared to the other three-dimensional characters who populate the script.
Foster plays Martin with the right amount of confusion, frustration, and determination. The scene where he first meets Jo in person is excellently played. Richards is quite good, underplaying some of the bigger moments to help them feel more realistic and grounded. Despite Bowie being a dullard, Couture is a menacing presence, and his big build is put to good use throughout.
Waxman put in a lot of action beats, each one exhilarating, but that means a good amount of special effects, both practical and CGI. Visual effects producer Viktor Adamec (who also did the excellent sound design) and pyrotechnician Miroslav Miclik prove up to the challenge provided by Alpha Code. Some of the effects are subtle but work to slightly distort the image, indicative of the strange things befalling the leads. The pyrotechnics look incredible, being lovingly captured by Martin Stepánek’s sumptuous cinematography.
Alpha Code is a wonderful surprise. Waxman and Friedrich have crafted a sharply written plot starring interesting lead characters. While the main antagonist is comparatively humdrum, even he gets his due once the flawless third act begins. Then when factoring in the stellar cast, one is left with an original, heartfelt genre picture that true cinema aficionados would do well to seek out as soon as possible.
"…an original, heartfelt genre picture..."