The Mountain Between Us is a story of survival about two strangers who find themselves stranded in the frozen wilderness. They quickly need to learn to rely on each other if they are going to make it out alive.
Idris Elba (best known as Stringer Bell from HBO’s brilliant series The Wire) plays Ben, an always in control neurosurgeon on his way to perform surgery in the morning. Seven-time Academy Award nominee (and Best Actress winner in 2009 for The Reader) Kate Winslet is Alex, a journalist who always relies on her instincts. She needs to fly home for her wedding the next day. The flight they are both supposed to be on is cancelled due to an impending snowstorm. Alex overhears Ben’s disappointment at being stranded and suggests they charter a private plane together so they can both get to their destinations on time.
Unfortunately, their pilot, Walter (Beau Bridges in a small role), has a stroke mid-flight. The plane crashes in the mountains, Walter dies, and Ben and Alex are alone with only their wits to keep them alive. And also Walter’s dog, but he’s mainly there for adorable reaction shots, not any narrative reason.
Coming in, I assumed the film would be about how two completely different people, who have never met each before, battle nature in an attempt to make it home alive. That is what the setup seems to predict. But director Hany Abu-Assad and his writers, Chris Weitz (a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar nominee in 2003 for co-writing About a Boy) and J. Mills Goodloe (who also wrote the screenplay for this year’s young adult adaptation Everything, Everything), do not stick with that idea for very long (the film is based on Charles Martin’s 2011 novel of the same name. It sounds like this film is a relatively faithful adaptation).
Beware: Mild Spoilers in the Following Two Paragraphs.
The film is not really about whether or not Ben and Alex survive; it is really about the feelings they develop for each other once they become stranded. Both Winslet and Elba are more than capable actors and they are able to carry the ridiculousness of the story (and their dialogue) much further than it deserves. But, once I realized what kind of movie this was going to be, I could predict the story beats with a scary accuracy. How they still have the energy to do some of the things they do in the film’s final third, I have no idea.
I also could not figure out why they keep the dog with them. Now, I am not a monster. I did not want to see them kill and eat the dog. But, presumably, the dog needs food and water as much as they do. It is difficult enough for them to make it through something like this without also having to take care of some guy’s dog (there are one too many scenes of Ben walking through the woods calling for the dog, whose name they do not know. One scene of that is one too many). That being said, I do not believe the movie ever actually shows the dog eating or drinking. Maybe he lives on love and head scratches?
End Mild Spoilers.
The Mountain Between Us (105 minutes minus the end credits) isn’t all bad. The performances are good and the scenery is beautiful. It is not a deep story about the human will to survive. It was never intended to be. Its intention was to put two good looking people alone together in a life threatening situation and then see what happens. Some audience members will enjoy the simplicity of its goal. I grew restless. The truth of the matter is, this movie is not for me. I did not care about the story and I did not care about what happened to the characters. However, there are worse ways to spend 105 minutes than watching Idris Elba and Kate Winslet act. And the dog’s reaction shots were pretty adorable.
2¼ out of 5
Idris Elba as Ben Bass
Kate Winslet as Alex Martin
Directed by Hany Abu-Assad
Screenplay by Chris Weitz and J. Mills Goodloe