The Mountain Between Us
A Story of Survival and Love

The new survival film The Mountain Between Us is an actor’s movie.  Sure, it has action, suspense, and a love story, but whether the movie will succeed or not really depends on the actors as there are only two of them for the majority of the movie. So it is a good thing that the two actors are really good ones in Idris Elba and Kate Winslet.  In fact, it is due to their performances and chemistry that the movie works despite its rather by-the-numbers survival storyline.

Elba plays Ben Bass, a doctor, and Winslet is photojournalist Alex Martin.  Stuck in the Boise airport after their flight to New York gets cancelled, they jointly book a private plane to take them to Denver, where they hope to find connecting flights home.  Unfortunately, their pilot has a stroke while in flight and the plane crashes high in the snow-covered Rocky Mountains.  Each of them has different ideas about the best ways to be rescued—he thinks they should sit tight, while she wants them to start hiking down the mountain.  She forces the matter by taking off on her own one morning and after he catches up, they are must fight the elements and seek out food and shelter to survive as they search for any sign of civilization.

As you might expect, a romance develops between the two as they fight for survival, but as inevitable as the romance seems, it feels somewhat forced.  This leads to an overlong epilogue as we are supposed to be in suspense over whether they will give up their old lives to be with each other or leave their love story behind in the mountains.  And ultimately, it is hardly surprising what the answer will end up being.

After the brief prologue, the movie opens spectacularly with a four-and-a-half minute single shot as we on the audience are trapped on the plane flight with no cuts until the plane crashes into the mountains.  It is a terrifically shot sequence that works great, even though it does not necessarily blend with the style of the rest of the film.  Once on the ground, the movie feels a lot like Robert Zemeckis’ Castaway as our movie stars are forced to get creative in order to survive alone in the dangerous climate.  There’s no volleyball in this one, but there is an unnamed dog that provides us with some fun distraction from the survival story here and there.  Though, it did leave me wondering as the film went on how the dog continued to appear happy and healthy despite a lack of food and shelter.

There were a few inconsistencies in the movie that really stood out.   For instance, there is a scene where they make a big deal of Elba’s character not having gloves so he has to warm his hands under Winslet’s jacket, but then he has gloves for the rest of the movie.  And the dog, at first left to roam free, is just suddenly on a short leash in one scene, despite the fact that he never seemed inclined to run away.  I feel like there must be a deleted scene somewhere in which the dog ran off chasing an animal or fell into a cavern or something that inspired them to keep him close with the leash.  Or perhaps it was simply a production necessity to keep the dog in the frame with the human actors.

The movie looks good.  There are plenty of long shots displaying the pretty scenery of the snowy mountains in British Columbia where this movie was shot and it must have been a challenging shoot given the seclusion high in the mountains.  Credit must go to whoever’s job it was to clear the crew’s footsteps from the snow so that the movie could pull back to view the vast, undisturbed terrain that its characters are trapped within.

The survival story was pretty by-the-numbers with little genuine suspense about what would happen next or whether our characters would survive, even if their survival did require a couple deus ex machinas, but it is never boring and that it is a credit both to the movie’s two stars and to director Hany Abu-Assad, who allows their performances to carry the movie.  Elba and Winslet are two very talented performers who have the chemistry necessary to make a movie like this work.  Even if their love story did feel inevitable and forced, they make it believable and we want them to survive, which is the key that makes this movie work for at least its first two acts.

I never did quite figure out what the figurative “mountain” was between them—Their existing relationships?  Personality differences?  The dog who liked her more than him?—but whatever it was, I enjoyed watching them trying to overcome it.

The Mountain Between Us is rated PG-13 for “a scene of sexuality, peril, injury images, and brief strong language.”  There is one sex scene which is not terribly graphic, as well as some grotesque injuries that could turn off some viewers.

Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of The Mountain Between Us.