If books (and adaptations) like Alive have taught us anything, it’s that plane crash victims, especially ones trapped in the snow covered mountains of remote regions, will resort to extremes beyond personal human endurance just to merely survive (cough, cough–cannibalism–cough, cough). The new film from Hany Abu-Assad (Omar, The Idol), The Mountain Between Us, doesn’t resort to such shock value to tell it’s tale of two dissimilar individuals who wind up stranded in the High Uintas Wilderness of Utah, and it’s too bad.
A little flesh eating could have made this sloppy, sappy experience more palatable. Heck, just a hint of foreboding would be better than what we get here. Instead of suspense or fear, we end up with something akin to The Odd Couple In Trouble, a standard cinematic cliche which sees two mismatched individuals placed in dire straits who end up finding affection among the dangers and personal distinctions of their circumstance.
Idris Elba plays Dr. Ben Bass, a surgeon who needs to get to Baltimore for a very important operation. He’s stranded in Boise, Idaho, and a massive storm has canceled all flights in or out. As luck would have it, he runs into Kate Winslet’s conflict journalist, Alex Martin. She needs to get to NYC ASAP because, well, because she’s getting married in the morning. She’s just chartered a small private plane to take her to Denver (where the connections are) and, as this is a movie, she invited Dr. Bass to tag along.
As the trailers tell you, the pilot (Beau Bridges–no seriously) and his dog take their passengers across the mountains, and as bad luck would have it, there’s bad weather, the plane falls apart, and at least three survivors wind up stranded with limited food, an injured leg, and no cellphone service. It’s not long before desperation turns to affection as our intrepid trio (yes, the puppy makes it) battle the elements, unexpected dangers, and the all too familiar feeling that no real danger exists. After all, our leads are A-list members of the film community. They can’t die…can they?
Wow, is The Mountain Between Us mediocre. The quality of the elements is high, but the results are sadly subpar. Winslet is an Oscar winner after all, and Elba’s no slouch when it comes to putting on a performance. But the material betrays them. The film is based on the popular novel by Charles Martin and it’s part Robert James Waller (of Bridges of Madison County fame) and part Nicholas Sparks. Targeting the oft-underserved female filmgoing demo, this is manipulative melodrama peppered with just the right amount of unearned emotion. All it has working for it is star power, and with Winslet and Elba as your leads, this movie’s limelight is blinding.
The problem is, if you want to watch attractive actors showing off their patented onscreen stuff, there’s chat shows on every night. You don’t need to plunk down the money for a sitter, a seat at the Cineplex, and a bucket of stale popcorn. The Mountain Between Us offers nothing you can’t get from dozens of similar movies, the only difference here being the stars, and if you are not particularly fond of Winslet or Elba, then there’s no reason to pay attention.
The Mountain Between Us is nothing more than a time suck, a way of wasting a few hours away from home that provides none of the excitement or entertainment you expect from a movie. Instead, this is a professional placeholder for everyone involved, a way of satisfying a studio or agent without risking much more than a disappointing box office total. The only folks who won’t survive here are the audience.