‘The Mountain Between Us’ crumbles under a big budget and low stakes

 By Michelle Wheeler

October 7, 2017

In The Mountain Between Us, Kate Winslet and Idris Elba are strangers stranded at an airport during a snowstorm who share a small charter plane doomed to deposit them in the middle of a winter wilderness. Based on that set up alone, you can likely guess at everything that comes next.

Does someone slide down a literal and metaphorical slippery slope? Yep. Do they end up having exactly the right skills needed to survive this disaster? They sure do.

Do they fall in love? Wow, you are great at this!

Idris Elba as Dr. Ben Bass and Kate Winslet as Alex Martin. Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Elba’s Ben is a neurosurgeon devoted to science and logic while Winslet’s Alex is a journalist who follows her gut. For most of the film, the script plays as a two-hander between the two stars, and in less capable hands, it would fall completely flat. As is, Winslet and Elba struggle to find nuance and emotion in lines that sound as if they were lifted from a daytime soap.

Luckily, the pair are engaging enough to keep the viewer interested even when it becomes clear that Mountain is little more than a glorified Lifetime movie with the budget to capture Mother Nature in all her glory. The vast no-man’s-land in which Alex and Ben get to know each other is equal parts majestic and terrifying, and stands in stark contrast to the cramped space of the small airplane where they’re first introduced. The couple faces the obstacles you’d expect from such an environment, but there’s never a question that our heroes will survive, and those low stakes leave the intensity of the characters’ feelings for each other feeling unearned.

Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Whatever does work in the film only works while the characters are on the mountain. When they’re rescued and try to re-acclimate to their old realities, cheesy awkwardness overwhelms what should be a romantic resolution.

Surprisingly, that’s not to say Mountain is unenjoyable. It’s what I like to call a “sick day” movie: the perfect film to curl up with on a chilly afternoon when you want nothing more than to sip a cup of hot chocolate and wait for Idris Elba to take his shirt off. The piano-driven score is reminiscent of movies that were made twenty years ago, lending an unexpected, but pleasant, retro vibe.

At its heart, perhaps that’s what makes Mountain ultimately just…fine. It’s not good enough to inspire high praise, yet not bad enough to rage about; not timely enough to feel relevant, nor timeless enough to become a classic.

Idris Elba as Dr. Ben Bass. Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

The Mountain Between Us doesn’t hold many surprises, but if you enjoy the simple pleasure of watching beautiful people saying and doing things together, it could be just the thing you’re looking for.

Star Rating: 3 out of 5

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