Director: Hany Abu-Assad
Runtime: 112 minutes
Based on the novel written by Charles Martin, The Mountain Between Us follows the experiences of neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Bass (Idris Elba) and photojournalist Alex Martin (Kate Winslet) after they survive the crash of their chartered flight into a snowy mountaintop. With the tagline ‘What if your life depended on a stranger?’ I was gearing up for an epic survival tale dealing with the intricacies of human relationships against a backdrop of infinite snowfall, subzero temperatures, and unknown creatures lurking in the distance.
The film started off strong, the adrenaline-pumping plane crash distracting me from my disconcerting lack of cinema snacks. But, akin to Kate Winslet shuffling through three feet of snow, the energy ran out very, very quickly.
What I enjoyed about the film was its lack of niceties. Right off the bat, we are walked into the airport where Bass and Martin are told of their cancelled flight. While Bass is urgently required for a lifesaving surgery on a 10-year-old child, Martin is scheduled to be married the very next day. The stakes are set high, and Martin proposes that she and Bass hire a light plane flown by Walter, portrayed by the perpetually cheerful Beau Bridges. They are joined by Walter’s dog, who remains nameless, but they barely reach the clouds before Walter has a fatal stroke and inadvertently steers them into the mountains.
With only each other to rely upon (as well as the dog, who managed to survive even without a doggy seatbelt), Bass and Martin negotiate their contrary personalities to buoy some sense of normalcy and hope. And they do it very well. Bass is pure doctor, methodical and distant, while Martin is pure journalist, talkative and impulsive. But as they learn more about each other, even developing inside jokes and playing favourites with the dog, a friendship develops, and not least because of the playful chemistry between Elba and Winslet.
At this stage, I was loving the film. How many Hollywood survival tales are content with portraying platonic relationships? Well, I can now safely say that the answer is zero. Because, what else is there to do when you finally stumble across an abandoned cabin with a king-sized bed? Even though one of you has cracked ribs and the other has a gash in their leg and a husband.
The scenery was beautiful, oscillating between landscape shots of the clear blue sky and endless white mountaintops, and tracking shots of destitute trees staring cruelly at the lost intruders. It is the possibility of a quiet death, frostbite and starvation, that stirs the most empathy for Bass and Martin.
But, overall, it was just too lame. The phrase ‘The heart is just a muscle’ is mentioned not once, but two times, and love is touted as the ultimate hero of the story. I don’t doubt the validity of this claim, but why does it have to be romantic love? I would have preferred if they became buddies, catching up every few years to talk about the good old days. I couldn’t help but smirk at the end, when they walk away from each other only to dramatically turn around and run into each others arms. I also couldn’t help but cover my ears as the credits rolled to Zayn Malik and Sia’s ‘Dusk till Dawn’. I’m only human, but that doesn’t mean I’ll automatically undress a man if I’m stuck on a mountain with him.