The Mountain Between Us promises a lot from the outset. It promises to be a story of survival, one where your life depends on the support of a stranger. It also intends to sweep the audience off their feet with a grand love story, a bond forged on icy mountains in the middle of nowhere. What’s more, it promises incredible performances from its two leads, the fantastic Idris Elba and Kate Winslet. The plan was sound, and the pieces were all in the right place to for everything to go right. The Mountain Between Us would ascend, engaging the audience on multiple fronts, culminating in a multi-faceted story tha-
Nope. It is not that. The Mountain Between Us is a far cry from what it promised to be, and, besides the excellent acting and the gorgeous cinematography, fails to deliver anything of substance.
The Mountain Between Us
Director: Hany Abu-Assad
Release Date: October 6, 2017
The Mountain Between Us is a story about two people; Ben Bass, a doctor, and Alex Martin, a journalist. These two strangers decide to charter a flight together to get back home in time for big events in their lives: Ben has an emergency surgery he needs to perform, and Alex is getting married. Unfortunately, the pilot has a stroke mid-flight, leaving Alex and Ben to endure a harrowing plane crash that strands them on the top of a snow-covered mountain. From there, Ben and Alex (oh, and the pilots dog) must fend for themselves and survive in an inhospitable environment. The film starts off hokey, and only gets more hackneyed and ridiculous as it goes along. Namely, concerning the structure of the plot, and the moment to moment dialogue.
First, why are Ben and Alex not back home already? If you were performing a critical surgery in the immediate future, or gearing up for a wedding, would that not take precedent over everything else in your life? Who would cut it that close? The question goes unaddressed, and begins the slow process of sapping this film’s potential right from the beginning. On the plane, Ben, reluctant to engage with the extroverted journalist, pulls out his phone and starts playing Candy Crush because, as he says, “I need to occupy my amygdala.”
It was at this point that I silently screamed, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?”
These two examples are The Mountain Between Us in a nutshell. Poor structure and plot conveniences, compounded by some of the worst dialogue I’ve heard at the theater in a long time. This movie feels so hokey, so slap-dashed and forced that it borders on becoming an unintentional comedy. Hell, if you see it with a few drinks in you, I’ve no doubt it’s downright hilarious. But the sobering fact is this: Hany Abu-Assad put his heart into the project, and produced a hackneyed, dull film
All the clues point to this. The cinematography is excellent. This movie is littered with sweeping shots of the Purcell Mountains, where The Mountain Between Us was filmed. In fact, the entire movie, save for one scene filmed at the Vancouver airport, was shot on the Purcell’s in the middle of winter. No director would go to the expense to shoot outdoors, and in below zero temperatures, if they didn’t have something driving them to do it. What’s more, Idris Elba and Kate Winslet are some of the most likable and charismatic actors on the planet. Again, someone had to go to the trouble to lock down both of these stars for this film. Why spend the money if you don’t care?
To Assad’s credit, these two factors of the movie paid off. This movie is gorgeous; nearly every shot is aesthetically pleasing without looking fake. The shots of the mountains reek of primordial danger, of unforgiving wilderness, and our two leads to everything in their power to sell their performances. Winslet is as good as always, while Elba steals the show with his excellent range and charismatic demeanor. This movie has a lot going for it.
Yet, The Mountain Between Us continuously dampens any momentum it generates with a plot so convenient, and dialogue so bad it reminds me of a Lifetime movie airing at 2 p.m. on a Sunday. It’s meant to feel like a tale of survival, but how can it feel like one if our characters never feel in danger? Sure, there are obstacles, but nothing ever affects our characters for more than a couple of minutes. The plane crashed, Ben broke a few ribs and Alex tore open her leg. Well, in the next 10 minutes they’ll both be fine, as if it never happened at all. Our pair is stranded on top of a mountain, how will they survive? What will they eat? Well, they’ll eat the convenient food that just popped up out of nowhere. Oh no, there’s a mountain lion? What will the-they’ll kill it, and eat it. That’s what they’ll do. And they say stupid crap about the amygdala and the heart while they’re doing it. I still don’t know why they didn’t eat that dog.
This movie isn’t terrible, but it isn’t worth your time. It’s a jaw-dropping, trite movie filled with countless conveniences that threaten to pull even the most myopic audience member out of their distantly aware stupor. Hany Abu-Assad clearly had his heart in the right place, and tried his best to craft an entertaining, heartwarming film. It’s just a shame he didn’t bother to read the script.