The Mountain Between Us
Jacob Richardson | 16/10/2017
Anchored by two tremendous actors, The Mountain Between Us is enjoyable romantic schmaltz rather than the life-or-death survival story you might expect.
Strangers Ben Bass (Idris Elba) and Alex Martin (Kate Winslet) are stranded in an airport with a storm rolling in. Alas, Ben has a patient he needs to see the next morning, and Alex is getting married the very next day, and any delay in their travel plans would be unacceptable. They find a pilot crazy enough to fly them through the storm, but are involved in a tragic plane crash part way through their journey, leaving their pilot dead, Alex with a broken leg, and Ben with a cut to his abdomen; all while they are stuck thousands of feet above civilisation, near the peak of one of a myriad of surrounding snow-covered mountains. Together, along with a trusty canine companion, they try to work their way out of peril, all while slowly falling in love.
Directed by Hany Abu-Assad, The Mountain Between Us is certainly a beautiful film. Set amongst snowy peaks, with a loveable dog as a sidekick, and remarkably minor injuries for a debilitating plane crash, it’s a movie that doesn’t care that you know it’s trying to tug on your heart-strings. And in many respects it manages to successfully do just that. The tension, for example, when a cougar attacks Alex is ratcheted up to 10, as is the terror when Ben almost goes over the edge of a cliff. The joy is there too, in Alex and Ben’s discovery of their desire for one another; in the look on Alex’s face when Ben goes to find the dog at her request, or in Ben’s as he rapidly tugs her from a frozen lake.
Abu-Assad knows exactly where to pump the gas, and he hits all the beats he needs to in the effective delivery of a romance of this type. You won’t be surprised when Ben, on the verge of abandoning Alex, turns around and runs back for her. You won’t be surprised when they, after making it out, decide to part ways. You won’t be surprised when they eventually get back together.
Perhaps that is the hardest thing to stomach about this supposed romantic survival story; it’s just so unsurprising. It’s paint-by-numbers filmmaking for an audience that doesn’t want to think. You know these beats so well, you can recite them by heart and for a movie about the ultimate adventure, it is incredibly unadventurous.
That’s not to say it is unenjoyable. Certainly, Idris Elba and Kate Winslet are two of the finest actors working today, and their performances here give depth and gravitas to a script that too often doesn’t deserve that level of attention. Their exquisite work makes this movie watchable, enjoyable and, if not memorable, then certainly a fond recollection 35 minutes after the screening. In lesser hands, Abu-Assad would have been in real trouble.
The Mountain Between Us isn’t the well-written, endlessly watchable romance set in a snowy survival story that you want, but for two hours of unthinking, cliche romantic pre-occupation, it’s not bad.