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The Mountain Between Us Review

"The Mediocrity in Front of Us"


The Mountain Between Us is an utterly, painfully predictable survival/love story that benefits just enough from the on-screen pairing of Idris Elba and Kate Winslet so as to be at least somewhat enjoyable.

Photojournalist Alex Martin (Winslet) meets neurosurgeon Ben Bass (Elba) at an airport after their flights are cancelled. One is late for a wedding, the other for surgery, so both decide to take a charter plane together. The plane crashes and while the two survive, they’re left stranded in the mountains with low supplies and no rescue in sight.

Beau Bridges grabs a quick paycheck in a minuscule supporting role as the plane’s pilot, which in a survival movie is pretty much the equivalent of being a black guy in a horror movie. It’s hard to tell if pilots as minor characters die more in action movies or in survival ones, but either way, odds are definitely not on their side.

As a survival story, The Mountain Between Us is pretty pedestrian. It more often than not feels like it’s just going through a checklist of tropes, not in order to generate actual thrills, excitement or tension, but to fill up a quota.

At one point, Ben slips and starts to fall towards the edge of a cliff. He doesn’t do the dramatic ‘grabbing on with one arm at the last possible second’ bit, but rather stops just before the cliff edge because there was a bump on the slope.

That scene almost perfectly encapsulates the low stakes The Mountain Between Us has going for it. This is not a movie that pushes its characters to their limit, but rather gently nudges them so as to simulate what a thrilling sequence might look like. The thin ice cracks and Alex falls in the water, but hey, Ben pulls her out of there pretty much right away.

Food is getting a little low? No worries, they’re able to kill a cougar and harvest its meat. The food situation is brought up a few times, but it never comes across as truly desperate. One reason for that is the pair have a dog with them and the idea of eating it is only ever brought up once, in jest.

Since Ben is a doctor, the movie treats injuries as inconveniences rather than life-threatening problems. Alex’s leg was hurt in the crash, but it never gets worse or infected – it just slows her down.

Fortunately, the snowy mountains in The Mountain Between Us are well worth their top billing – it’s quite a picturesque movie, although the way it’s shot makes the whole thing seem more like a leisurely winter holiday than a life-or-death scenario.

As a love story, The Mountain Between Us also struggles. Elba and Winslet are charming, charismatic and have effortless chemistry, but the writing gives them very little to work with. They exchange some good banter here and there, but there’s not a lot of romancing going on.

This is not aided by the fact that Alex is engaged, a plot beat that only seems to exist to needlessly complicate her relationship with Ben. The payoff to that is a drawn out epilogue which is about as interesting and emotionally stirring as a wet blanket.

Ben’s own marriage at least seems to have some kind of point, as it plays into his fear of losing Alex. That, however, leads to a very weird sequence. After Ben explains to Alex why he can’t leave her behind to save himself, there’s a scene in which, well, he appears to be leaving her behind to save himself, only to give up and run back. It’s bizarre, almost funny even.

At its best, The Mountain Between Us is a pleasant, utterly forgettable diversion – a pretty movie starring good actors that is neither boring nor exciting in any way. Amusingly enough, it’s basically the exact kind of movie you end up watching on a long flight when there’s nothing better to do.

Rating
5.0
Pros
  • Elba and Winslet are solid, charming leads
  • Some really pretty mountains
Cons
  • Banal storytelling
  • Corny writing

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