The Mountain Between Us
Starring Idris Elba, Kate Winslet, Beau Bridges
Israeli director Hany Abu-Assad might have missed more romance survivor films than he should, before undertaking The Mountain Between Us. There’s a lot of good work in the middle of this film, particularly thanks to Oscar winner Winslet (Steve Jobs, The Dressmaker) and Idris Elba (The Dark Tower, Beasts of No Nation). The remote isolation of the film, Vancouver Canada sufficing for no man’s land USA, is exquisite in both sheer beauty and desperation. What plagues the film in the beginning is the visually lackluster plane crash and the ending is a Lifetime movie embrace if I ever saw one. If you took the outline for action comedy Six Days, Seven Nights and turned it into a drama, flipped the temperature, you’ve got The Mountain Between Us.
Dr. Ben Bass (Elba) and photo journalist Alex Martin (Winslet) are the sole survivors of a plane crash in route from Idaho to Denver during a winter storm. Neither contacted family before hopping aboard a two-seater plane in a desperate attempt to get to their pressing destinations. Little food, a broken leg and dire circumstances, the two strangers must rely on one another’s limited survival skills to stay alive. Also on the ground with them is the pilots surviving dog with no name. Alex decides moving to lower ground will be their only chance for rescue, but once on the move, warmth is hard to come by and food even more scarce as they inch away from the mountain and closer to death.
Once again Elba elevates a film that would otherwise succumb to a filmmaker unaware that he isn’t really offering his audience anything new.
I get that in the overall scheme of things, the plane crash isn’t the most important scene in a movie. The Mountain Between Us quickly reveals itself as a human story rather than a survival film. The way the cinematographer moves the single shot in and around the tiny plane is quite interesting and purposely claustrophobic. It’s when we get to the crash that it looks like a video game or made for TV movie. Cast Away, Sully or Flight have shown us how harrowing a plane crash can look and feel visually, this film would have been better off just skipping the crash. The middle section plays a bit like recent survival film Walking Out, but it’s the final act where the filmmakers just embrace stereotypes to the point it nearly ruins the actors solid work.
Once again Elba elevates a film that would otherwise succumb to a filmmaker unaware that he isn’t really offering his audience anything new. Elba has this screen presence here and in other films, that demand the audience attention. He is both a quick-thinking hero, but also a quiet and contemplative protector, slowly unveiling his personality. Winslet, while playing an American, pulls off some comedy undertones that lighten the dire circumstance. A strong woman who isn’t afraid to admit she’s scared and vulnerable while also making some of the couples most difficult survival choices. The light piano score by Game of Thrones composer Ramin Djawadi doesn’t work in the early scenes, yet much better as the film and the circumstance change. A more astute filmmaker could have introduced original ideas into a tired genre, thankfully the actors make it worth your while.
The actors elevate an otherwise generic story of survival.