Film Review – The Mountain Between Us
The Mountain Between Us
Romance? Adventure? Survival? A dog? Hany Abu-Assad’s new film The Mountain Between Us (2017) contains all of those things and more! But is it any good? Well it’s got some decent performances and beautiful scenery. It’s also kind of preposterous and silly. But wait! Before I go any further, let me set the scene. Impetuous but intelligent photojournalist Alex (Kate Winslet) is in a bit of a jam. She’s due to be married the next day, but she’s in the middle of nowhere Idaho before a snowstorm and all airline flights have been cancelled. She comes up with a brilliant plan to circumvent this problem and hires a charter plane to take her to Denver so she can grab a connecting flight to New York. She notices neurosurgeon Ben (Idris Elba) is in the same pickle, so she offers to include him in on the action. Unfortunately for them, their pilot Walter (Beau Bridges) has a stroke over the Rocky Mountains and dies in the ensuing plane crash. Both passengers (and Walter’s dog) survive the crash and eagerly await rescue. However, since Walter never filed a flight plan, no one knows where they are, and they eventually decide they must climb down the mountain to safety. (This is greatly complicated by the fact that Alex has a severe leg injury.) All of this is much in the trailer, but what it doesn’t show is that this is a romance. While getting the characters off the mountain is a high priority in the film, it is really about the relationship that develops between the two characters.
It’s okay. The scenery was gorgeous, and who doesn’t like Kate Winslet and Idris Elba? (I will admit that Elba’s character in The Office made me super anxious, but I think I’m over it. Pretty sure.) The scenery is lovely, and I generally enjoy disaster, survival, and romance movies, and I see nothing wrong with combining them. (Any good Irwin Allen made-for-tv disaster film always has a healthy dose of love.) But in the end, I just felt everything was just a bit silly. Alex and Ben adhere to their fictional gender norms – she is nosy and listens to her gut, he is intellectual and rational – and break down their barriers through particularly banal conversations that are meant to be shortcuts to intimacy. She is always in physical peril, and he is always managing to find the miracle solution. Technically the film is gorgeous, but there are a couple of scenes where CGI is required and those bits feel like they have no grounding in reality. (This would be the plane crash and a scene with a mountain lion.) There’s nothing to be ashamed of here, but neither is their anything to celebrate. I spent a lot of the film thinking: “Huh, this would be more interesting if . . . “.
Alternate Film #1 – In Which Alex and Ben are Just Friends: There was a moment in The Mountain Between Us where Alex says something to Ben, and I was all “That’s kind of icky,” and then the film turns into a romance. I really didn’t want it to go there. I wanted to see a movie where a man and a woman develop a deep friendship based on their mutual desire for survival and didn’t need to bone at the first opportunity. Friendship is cool. There doesn’t need to be a romantic undertone to every male/female interaction. And even if there is, it’s normal to experience desire for opposite sex friends and never act on it. It’s kind of how adults navigate the world. I dunno, maybe we aren’t supposed to talk about it. But it would have been interesting.
Alternate Film #2 – In Which Ben is American: Bear with me on this one. Both Winslet and Elba are British, but she plays American and he keeps an accent. Their interracial romance is somewhat less controversial because he is not from the United States and is differentiated from an American born black person. I think this film would have been WAAAAYYYY more interesting if he had been cast as an American and the film actually had to deal with what it might mean for a black man and a white woman in this political climate to have to depend on each other for survival. And once again, I think it would have been more interesting without the romance. Friendship can be harder than romance because there is no promise of sex to generate interest.
It’s fine, but I just think there are a lot of wasted opportunities here. Also, for the animal people – the dog does not die. It’s kind of a spoiler to tell you that, but I know how some folks are about animals in danger.