20th CENTURY FOX (2017)
Director: Hany Abu-Assad
Starring: Idris Elba, Kate Winslet
Ever hear the one about the neurosurgeon and photojournalist stranded on a mountain?
Charles Martin’s novel gets a big screen adaptation, helmed by double Oscar nominee Hany Abu-Assad, fronted by Hollywood powerhouses Kate Winslet and Idris Elba (and a dog) and has the intriguing genre of ‘romantic disaster’ flick. That’s some high pedigree (no pun intended, doggy) right there already. Throw in the beauty of Alberta and British Columbia, Canada and surely the movie is set for success?
Stranded at an airport due to harsh weather and desperately needing to get home, Ben Bass (Elba) and Alex Martin (Winslet) need to get out of Denver – better go go. It’s pretty non-negotiable, too, as Ben has a young patient to operate on the next morning and Alex has the small matter of her wedding day to attend. Having overheard each other’s plights, the pair spend big bucks on a charter flight and head to the skies. Wisely, neither made any calls or texts to loved ones, nor did the pilot, Walter (Beau Bridges), complete a flight log. When Walter has a stroke at the controls, the plane hurtles towards a snowy crash landing leaving only Ben, Alex and Walter’s dog alive in the harsh tundra and dangerous mountaintops. Left to survive the unforgiving climate, the pair must traverse the elements whilst retaining their sanity if they have any hope of getting home. Maybe there’ll be some romance in there too… (There is).
Straddling a strange line, The Mountain Between Us is most definitely a double-headed beast. In one hand, the movie is a survival flick as the two strangers must work together in order to stay alive as the weather gets worse, cougars prowl about and food is scarce. The other side of the coin is a romantic drama as Ben and Alex drift closer together as the peril becomes worse, amongst personal tragedy and failing confidence. The romantic element begins fairly softly and as the movie progresses, eventually becomes the focal point of proceedings to the point where the movie transforms into something completely different from where it began – there’s a mountain between the start point and ending.
Elba and Winslet are as dependable as you’d expect them to be and certain parts of the movie really allow them to work off of each other and highlight their well-recognized abilities. As the focal characters – and really the only true characters - had they been below-par, the movie would have bombed completely. The dog was paw-fect, however…
Depending on your tolerance, the movie may stray too far from comprehension in terms of how much Ben can achieve, how much the pair can take and the romantic angle. In terms of the writing, it’s OK, there are some good conversations to be heard between the pair during lighter and tense moments and overall, there are no real dud moments (cookie moment aside) – one key issue being the distance traversed is never really delved into, despite being fairly important. The issue is with the clichés and conveniences that pop up fairly regularly – the shelter appearing just at the right time, the strange lack of wildlife (one cougar aside), Ben simply being a doctor, not dying or losing toes from the sheer cold, not sending texts etc. – and at times, it feels like the movie is just putting jigsaw pieces together. Plus, the lovemaking must have been pretty…stinky after all that time without a wash.
Speaking of stinky, the ending is cheesier than a Camembert bath. My god…
The visual aspects are marvellous. The stunning vistas and endless snow are captured with an expansive eye and effectively portrays the scale of the journey the two must face. You’ll feel cold just watching.
Whether or not the ‘deeper’, survivalist half would’ve made a better overall story is up for debate, however, as it stands The Mountain Between Us is an inoffensive, pleasant ride that’s low on tension and real peril but survives thanks to the strength of Elba and Winslet’s performances. If you’re after a slower, quixotic but somehow feel-good movie, then The Mountain Between Us will tick your boxes. If you’re after snowy edge-of-your-seat dread, check out Everest instead.
At least they didn’t eat the dog.
November 27th 2017