Adventure and wilderness films are tough to get right. These movies must have excellent scripts and superb actors to keep the audience engaged with the characters and keyed in with the narrative. This is especially difficult when a film lacks the typical bells and whistles like endless plot points and bustling backgrounds. Director Hany Abu-Assad’s latest venture, The Mountain Between Us — an adaptation of the romance novel by Charles Martin, only has one of the two criteria. (To be fair, Martin’s book isn’t exactly heralded for its prose.)
A stunningly shot film set against the snowy white mountains of the Rockies, we meet Alex (portrayed by Kate Winslet) a photographer, journalist and a risk taker. Her latest assignment has left her stranded in a Denver airport the day before her wedding. Idris Elba is Ben, a British neurosurgeon looking to get back to his patient — a 12-year old boy in desperate need of his help. Ben is calm and collected, but there is also a sensitivity there buried underneath his stoic nature.
As soon as Ben and Alex collide in the airport, the film goes off course. Instead of swearing to the universe and snatching up a hotel voucher like the rest of humanity, Alex and Ben decide to charter a tiny plane and make it on their way themselves. Obviously, their plan proves to be disastrous, and their plane comes crashing out of the sky. What’s next is a two-hour too long odyssey of two very different people who don’t very much like one another. However, they are forced to bond and trust each other if they have any hope of surviving.
We’ve seen Winslet and Elba shine in various film and TV projects before, but the script for The Mountain Between Us was so predictable and generic that it was nearly comical. Martin’s book actually focuses on the difficulties of traditional love and marriage, but those tropes are nowhere to be found here. It didn’t help that the veteran actors had nearly zero chemistry — even though they were pretty to look at.
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