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‘The Mountain Between Us’ (review)

Produced by Peter Chernin, Dylan Clark,
David Ready, Jenno Topping
Screenplay by Chris Weitz, J. Mills Goodloe
Based on The Mountain Between Us
by Charles Martin
Directed by Hany Abu-Assad
Starring Idris Elba, Kate Winslet,
Dermot Mulroney, Beau Bridges

 

There are few things certain in life outside of death and taxes, but one of those items is that if Kate Winslet or Idris Elba is in a film, there is going to be a romantic angle.

It should be no surprise that The Mountain Between Us ends up being just the kind of vehicle that feeds into what any fan of the actors would want: beautiful sweeping scenery, a commanding but also vulnerable Winslet, low stakes danger, and the chance for Elba to charm his co-star.

When Dr. Ben Bass (Idris Elba) cannot get back to perform a surgery due to a snowstorm cancelling all flights, photojournalist Alex Martin (Kate Winslet) overhears him and suggest they split a chartered plane so that she can get back for her wedding. After the plane tragically crashes in the mountains with no one know where the two are, they realize they must strike out to find civilization, depending on the near-stranger beside them if they wish to live.

Certainly, the peril of freezing or starving to death seems like a dreaded fate hanging over the protagonists’ head, but director Hany Abu-Assad makes their possible end secondary to the gorgeous setting. The two rarely see a serious storm or devastating avalanche. Instead, the views are crisp and clean to the point that each character stops simply to take in the scenery, too overcome with beauty to remember the ever-present prospect of a lonely icy death in the mountains. Like much of the movie, it is both understandable and incredulous at the same time.

With that said, there are certainly worse final views than Idris Elba against a majestic snow covered landscape reminiscent of a Christmas card.

The beauty of the setting complements the superb acting of Elba and Winslet who have been given a rather formulaic movie. The moment that they embark on their quest it is simply a waiting game to see when they will end up together. Their chemistry is grand and individual monologues are strong and heart-wrenching, but there just isn’t a lot to hang it on without the peril of sudden challenges to throw a wrench in this straightforward disaster love story.

The most interesting parts may be at the last 30 or so minutes of the movie, addressing the aftermath of the journey. I will not spoil it here, but it was interesting to have the movie continue at a point where most directors would have been fine rolling the credits.

The main problem to The Mountain Between Us is also its greatest strength.

The movie is simply too beautiful to make the viewer feel any real drama or urgency. Many a disaster film has been made where the relationship between the characters moves in and out of primary focus as avalanches, predators, mishaps, and bitter fights threaten to take the life of a traveler. At no point was it believable that either would die. The most anxiety that I felt was wondering whether or not they would have to consume the dog that accompanied them after the crash.

While nothing new is brought to the table in this love story, Elba and Winslet are absolute powerhouse actors that grip the attention of anyone watching. Winslet’s portrayal of Alex’s increasing vulnerability as the situation starts to wane on and spirits dampen is complex, while Elba’s slow thaw of Ben’s standoffish nature is the most rewarding of all the performances. Together, they are completely believable as apprehensive travel companions turned situational lovers.

The movie is worth seeing simply to watch the moments where they are able to transcend the writing and turn something factory made into an intimate love story set against the snow.

 

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