The Mountain Between Us Movie Review
Beautiful direction, two terrific actors, and a story of survival can’t save The Mountain Between Us from being one of the more confounding crashes of 2017 - it’s a movie that is almost really good but isn’t, that repeatedly near-summits but always ends up in a crevasse, that simultaneously captures your attention and makes you wince.
Idris Elba and Kate Winslet star as two strangers who find themselves stranded on a peak in the Rockies with no sign of civilization in sight. Though injured, they set out to find rescue, braving the cold, cliffs, freezing water and wildlife. Winslett also has to deal with Elba’s “mountain,” if you get my meaning.
While neither actor delivers a great performance here, both are talented enough to elevate the material - which, aside from the beautiful scenery and solid direction by Hany Abu-Assad (Omar, Paradise Now) - is realistically Lifetime Channel quality stuff. The movie can’t decide as to whether it wants to be a tale of survival or a romance drama, and instead opts to be both - resulting in an uneven movie whether nothing quite clicks the way it should.
For a little while, The Mountain Between Us works - Abu-Assad wastes no time introducing the two characters, crashing them into a mountain and establishing how screwed they are - but The Revenant this is not. Between things like Winslet’s character deciding to set off on her own (really?), battles with CGI cougars and the seemingly requisite “falling through the ice” scene, however, the movie slowly chips away at its own credibility with an ice axe. Worse, while the odds are stacked against them, Abu-Assad rarely makes it seem as though they are in much peril; Elba never has trouble starting a fire, they have blankets and necessary snow gear, and he’s a doctor. For a survival film, there is very little suspense.
The lack of suspense, in turn, is a result of the movie’s increasing reliance on forcing a romance on the two actors; the couple don’t have great romantic chemistry, but the story wills it so we’re stuck spending two hours watching these two great actors try and generally fail to convince us that they are falling in love. Any sense of danger is often disrupted by tedious dialogue-driven scenes where Winslet attempts to understand why Elba won’t talk about his wife (the answer is obvious). Conveniently, the two discover a cabin at just the point where it’s necessary they awkwardly fuck on a frozen mattress.
Spoilers ahead, but the movie completely falls apart in the final 20 minutes. They both survive - but not before, with civilization just feet away, Elba inexplicably steps on a bear trap - and Abu-Assad takes us on a crash course of how the two try to return to their normal lives, only to find something missing (gasp! Each other! Awwwww!). These scenes are so incredibly boring they almost made me wish the adorable dog had died just to spice things up. I literally zoned out for the film’s final few minutes, until the movie hits us broadside with a romantic cliche so cheesy Winslet and Elba should be ashamed they agreed to film it.
The Mountain Between Us isn’t an outright disaster - it’s a sneaky one. On the surface, it looks pretty, it more or less holds your attention (until it doesn’t) and features two quality actors doing what they do. But it’s a survival/romantic drama that treads on thin ice, and more than a few times it falls through. Best to keep a mountain between you and this one.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.