Director: Hany Abu-Assad
Starring: Kate Winslet, Idris Elba, Beau Bridges
In The Mountain Between Us, the new wilderness drama from Hany Abu-Assad, the two-character cast is afforded little opportunity for an introduction. Photographic journalist Alex Martin (Kate Winslet) and conveniently skilled surgeon Ben Bass (Idris Elba) are thrown together by circumstance – a cancelled flight – and almost immediately make the unlikely decision to charter the private plane of a slightly demented ex-military pilot (Beau Bridges). A few minutes of blunt exposition later – justified as Martin’s journalistic curiosity – and the trio is plummeting towards a desolate area of the Rocky Mountains, where Martin and Bass must fight survival with only the pilot’s trusty old dog.
One obvious draw of a narrative set high in the Rocky Mountains is the impressive scenery – glacial white peaks stretching as far as the eye can see. The Mountain Between Us, however, doesn’t particularly make the most of this extraordinary setting; the mountains are often overlooked in favour of seemingly unnecessary close-ups and choppy action sequences. Only in a couple of still morning shots does the true beauty and isolation of the setting shine through, and these are brief.
Nobody knows where we are. We’re all we’ve got, me and you! That’s it.
More jarring than the disregard for the scenery in the film, however, is what happens within it. As a way to pass the time, the film is entertaining enough, but an endless onslaught of implausible events completely detracts from the gravity of any one scene, with the film relying on cliché set-pieces to evoke any kind of emotional response. This becomes particularly evident towards the end of the film, which is pretty predictable from the start.
Moreover, whilst the performances of Elba and Winslet are pretty solid throughout (as is to be expected), they were not enough to distract from the clunky script – a collaboration between J. Mills Goodloe, Chris Weitz, and Charles Martin, the author of the novel on which it was based – impossible to disguise with such a small cast. The dog was great, though, so that’s a plus.
Unfortunately, cute dogs and lingering shots of Idris Elba’s upper body were ultimately not enough to rescue The Mountain Between Us. The opportunity for an intimate character study in a sublime, sprawling landscape was lost to a reliance on the same old action sequences and sentimental clichés. Just another mediocre blockbuster.