The Mountain Between Us – Film Review by Pat Viale
Director: Hany Abu-Assad
Writers: J. Mills Goodloe, Charles Martin (novel)
Stars: Idris Elba, Kate Winslet, Beau Bridges
There are few surprises in director, Hany Abu-Assad’s new film, The Mountain Between Us. From the publicity poster it is obvious that when, in the opening sequence, photojournalist Alex Martin (Kate Winslet), decides to charter a small aircraft because her flight to Denver has been cancelled (no, nothing to do with Ryanair!) things are not going to go well. Alex is desperate to get to her destination in time for her wedding due to take place the following day. At the airport she meets neurosurgeon, Ben Bass (Idris Elba), also frustrated by the delay as he is due to perform brain surgery on a critically ill ten year old boy the next morning. She invites him to join her and they take off in the small craft with their pilot (Beau Bridges) and his cute golden Labrador – and the stage is set for yet another “survival in the wilderness” movie.
To be fair, there are good things in the movie. Apart from the short opening and closing sections, the film focuses entirely on Winslet and Elba and both are in top form. Elba, playing a man struggling with a personal tragedy and suspicious of any emotional attachments, is particularly convincing. The landscape too is amazing. Stranded in the middle of a snow-capped mountain range the two must struggle up and down picturesque slopes, cross pine forests and gushing rivers in search of help, giving cinematographer, Mandy Walker, free rein to makes full use of the stunning surroundings. And there’s the encounter with the cougar. And the cute dog, constantly bounding energetically about in the snow, apparently unaffected by the lack of food.
But that’s about it. Otherwise, the storyline is totally predicable from the start. There is never any doubt that “the mountain” between them – not just the physical mountain they have to cross but also the emotional barriers that separate them, will be overcome. There are moments, as they trek through endless tracts of snow, when your hand itches for the fast-forward button. There have been so many “lost in the snow” survival films in recent years that we have come to know what we can expect – but, as there are just two central characters here, we guess that, in this case, they probably won’t end up eating each other. Though we do worry at times whether the dog will end up, sautéed or grilled, as the next meal. (Spoiler: he doesn’t!)
The Mountain Between Us is an entertaining romp and, if you’re a fan of either actor, of snow or clichéd story-lines, it’s worth going to see. But don’t expect to be blown away. This is a fairly traditional survival film with an uninspiring script that is saved from blandness only by the chemistry and excellent performances of the Winslet and Elba and the remarkable cinematography of Mandy Walker.