The Mountain Between Us


The Mountain Between Us  (2017)    20th Century Fox/Action-Adventure-Drama    RT: 103 minutes    Rated PG-13 (a scene of sexuality, peril, injury images, brief strong language)    Director: Hany Abu-Assad    Screenplay: Chris Weitz and J. Mills Goodloe    Music: Ramin Djawadi    Cinematography: Mandy Walker    Release date: October 6, 2017 (US)    Cast: Idris Elba, Kate Winslet, Dermot Mulroney, Beau Bridges.



 SPOILER ALERT! When I saw the dog in the trailer for The Mountain Between Us, I was worried that he wouldn’t make it to the end of the movie. I had a sick feeling something bad would happen to him. It turns out I was wrong. The golden Lab survives. Excuse me while I join my fellow dog lovers in a collective sigh of relief.

 The unnamed dog’s fate is one the only things I like about The Mountain Between Us, an utterly mediocre adventure-romance in which two strangers find themselves stranded on a snowy mountain after a plane crash. They have little chance of survival unless they work together. You know the drill. I’d find it easier to sympathize with the two main characters if they didn’t bring their present dilemma on themselves. All flights out of the Idaho airport have been cancelled due to bad weather. This means it’s unsafe to fly. So what does Alex Martin (Winslet, Titanic) do? She arranges for a small charter plane to fly her to Denver to catch a flight to New York. Not only that, she drags somebody else into it. That would be Ben Bass (Elba, The Dark Tower) who also needs to get to New York in a hurry. This has BAD IDEA written all over it.

 mountain-between-usGranted, they both have urgent reasons for reaching their destination. She has a wedding to attend, her own. He’s scheduled to perform surgery on a young boy the next day. Still, is it really worth risking their lives? You just know it’s going to end badly. The signs are all there. That the good ol’ boy pilot (Bridges, The Fabulous Baker Boys) doesn’t file a flight plan should be a big tip-off. Sure enough, disaster strikes. While en route to Denver, the pilot (Bridges, The Fabulous Baker Boys) has a stroke and the plane crashes in the High Unitas Wilderness in Utah. The pilot dies, his dog lives and Alex is badly injured. Relatively unharmed, Ben tends to her injuries and saves her life.

 They’re in a tight spot. There’s no cell phone reception (duh!) and they’re miles from civilization. They only have enough food for three days. The weather is harsh. All the plane’s tracking devices have been smashed to bits. Basically, they’re screwed. On top of everything else, they can’t agree on a course of action. Ben says they should remain where they are and wait for help to arrive. Surely somebody must be looking for them. Alex thinks they should trek down the mountain and through the wilderness until they find help. She’s used to taking risks; her profession takes her to some very dangerous places around the world (she’s a photojournalist). We know that they will eventually head out on foot with their faithful canine companion (and fearless mountain lion fighter) by their side. Until that happens, we get many scenes of the two arguing over strategy.

 Essentially, The Mountain Between Us is Alive (minus the cannibalism) meets When Harry Met Sally (minus the comedy). It also lacks the brilliant chemistry of Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan. In fact, there’s no chemistry at all between the survivors of two previous disasters (i.e. Titanic and Dark Tower). It’s disappointing because both actors are very talented. The romance that develops between them feels forced and unconvincing. They’re clearly mismatched even in the midst of dire circumstances. The Mountain Between Us is completely predictable. Every moment of peril is telegraphed. You just know that when Ben goes off to look for a dog, he’s going to end up in some life-threatening (and painful) predicament. It’s slow-moving and goes on longer than it needs to. The final scene is a foregone conclusion. The only good things about The Mountain Between Us are the scenery and cinematography. Everything else is completely mediocre.

 Palestine director Hany Abu-Assad has an impressive resume that includes Best Foreign Film nominee Omar (2013) and The Idol (2015). It’s a shame his first major American film with big stars is such a crushing disappointment. He’s clearly going for a big romantic epic but The Mountain Between Us barely reaches the level of a so-so Nicholas Sparks adaptation. The screenplay is filled with stilted dialogue like when Ben says, “A heart is nothing but a muscle.” We know what it really means and we know his attitude will change before the end. The movie lacks the emotional power to even make it work as a sappy soap opera. The Mountain Between Us doesn’t stand out in any way; it’s very nondescript and forgettable. Not the worst I’ve ever seen but not worth your time either.

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