Movie Review: The Mountain Between Us

The Mountain Between Us is a survival action adventure and romance drama starring Idris Elba and Kate Winslet. Directed by Hany Abu-Assad, and based on the novel by Charles Martin, we journey with two strangers who form a connection after a tragic light aircraft crash leaves them stranded in a snowy mountainous region. The Mountain Between Us is like a Nicholas Sparks re-imagining of Alive, using the premise of a tragic crash as the backdrop to a perilous journey and unlikely romance.

The plane crash, MacGyver survival instincts and extreme elements make for a compelling tale, following in the tradition of White Fang, Into the Wild and even The Grey. However, the story isn’t about one person and their dog, which shifts the spirit of the adventure from a solo expedition to an intimate team race for survival. While each of the co-leads is strong enough to have undertaken this kind of film on their own, there is something fresh about having a couple battle the odds. As such, the focus moves from the soul to the heart as the unification takes on a whole new dimension.

While this fresh angle is enhanced by the prospect of an interracial romance drama between two engaging actors, the film was originally intended to star Michael Fassbender and Margot Robbie. Instead we have Idris Elba and Kate Winslet, two of our generation’s best actors, whose names carry clout and generally lead to films of artistic merit and great substance. While they have good chemistry and deliver engaging performances, this film feels below their station in terms of content and class. Perhaps if it had been based on a true story as in Touching the Void, the actual events would have kept it more grounded in reality.

 “No… we’re still not there yet!”

Instead of fostering a sense of authenticity, the screenplay embellishes, gradually working its way to a fairly predictable outcome. As if checking off a list of potential hazards, the adventure moves from gritty survivalist drama to implausible damsel-in-distress romance. Being a neurosurgeon, Ben Bass, is perfectly positioned to care for injured travel photographer, Alex Martin. The victim/rescuer dynamic sustains for the majority of the film as Bass keeps trying to nurse Martin to health, despite the dire situation and a series of unfortunate events. Ending a number of scenes on ridiculous open-ended one-liners doesn’t help matters as one continually veers from “oh boy” to “attaboy”.

The sweeping cinematography lends scale and respect to the production, which maintains a sense of realism when it comes to environment. Together with a handsome pairing and intriguing story, the visuals go a long way to redeeming The Mountain Between Us. The breathtakingly beautiful landscape photography and icy wilderness conditions certainly enhance the escapism, however the visual component can only take you so far. As likable and talented as Elba and Winslet are, it’s difficult to override silly dialogue, cloying situations, a saccharin tone and heavy-handed direction through performance alone. 

While The Mountain Between Us has enough positives to make the rose-tinted survival romance melodrama bearable as a light distraction, it seems like a disservice to the immense talents at play. As a tearjerker, it has some latent power yet it’s ultimately undermined by a cheesy, contrived and melodramatic tone. The characters are winsome enough, but the sentimentalism and incredulity of the misadventure keep things heartfelt yet superficial.

The bottom line: Far-fetched