As the poet Rihanna said, The Mountain Between Us is about two individuals who find love in a hopeless place. Or perhaps “Crash Into Me” by Dave Matthews Band is a more appropriate musical metaphor here. Either way, I’d take listening to either track over watching this survival tale again. Based on a 2011 novel by Charles Martin, this melodrama finds Kate Winslet and Idris Elba falling for one another under snow drenched and deadly circumstances.
Alex (Winslet) is a photojournalist racing back home because she’s to be married the next day. Dr. Ben (Elba) is a brain surgeon hustling back to perform surgery on a child. They’re both in Boise dealing with a weather related flight cancellation so the strangers team up and hire a charter flight out. Their pilot and his dog take them wheels up, but not for long. The plane crashes. Alex, Ben, and the canine survive. She’s injured. They’re on a mountain. It’s freezing. Let the survival games ensue.
The film quickly and efficiently puts the two leads and their furry friend in their predicament and wastes little time doing so. We are left with nearly two hours of the duo deciding whether to stay on their mountain perch, repel down for any signs of life, and the other developments we have come to anticipate in the genre (we know that the dog is unlikely to be the only animal around). All the while, we are asked to buy that Alex and Ben are developing a bond deeper than the “I want to live” variety.
It’s a tough sell. That’s somewhat surprising considering that Winslet and Elba are two fine actors and their chemistry is sufficient. It’s the mawkish screenplay that’s the main issue. The script never succeeds in making either lead particularly compelling or three-dimensional. There’s only so much mileage you get from two solid actors acting cold for a couple of hours. The material never rises to their talents. It’s actually Raleigh and Austin (the names of the dogs who were used here) who come out best and give perhaps the sturdiest performances in the movie. Maybe two hours of Raleigh/Austin on his own braving the elements would have been more engaging.
** (out of four)