A photojournalist named Alex Martin (Kate Winslet) and surgeon Dr Ben Bass (Idris Elba) are greatly concerned when their flight is cancelled due to stormy weather conditions. While Alex has to go to a wedding (her own), Ben is due to perform surgery on a child; their problems seem to be resolved when they find a charter plane they can board. Unfortunately, the plane crashes, and the pair of them are forced to head into the wilderness of a remote snow-covered mountain range, with survival seeming unlikely.
***MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS***
When you’ve got two of the most beloved (and completely rightly so) actors working in Hollywood today headlining your feature, chances are things will turn out right, even if the script isn’t up to par. Such is the case with The Mountain Between Us with Winslet and Elba bringing a vitality and charm to their respective characters who would otherwise be fairly average guys who aren’t particularly interesting and who can actually be kind of annoying at times, as is especially the case with Winslet’s rash and occasionally inconsiderate character Alex.
The film relies much on the total opposition between its two leads, with Winslet being the reckless Alex, an American who wants to take action, while Elba’s (British) Ben is much more pensive and calculating, wanting to wait for help to come. Their chemistry feels a bit forced and often too hot and cold (if you’ll pardon the pun). It wants to throwback to those old Hollywood romantic movies where polar opposites attract, but nowadays that doesn’t really ring true.
As a drama-thriller, The Mountain Between Us is fairly by-the-numbers, going through the motions and hitting all the beats of a typical survival movie. However, as aforementioned, Elba and Winslet are such a delight to watch on-screen that its conventionality is very forgivable. What comes later is not.
At some point, the movie goes from survival thriller to romantic drama and while a sudden tonal shift can be used to great effect in films like these, the problem is that Elba and Winslet don’t have the romantic chemistry that is absolutely intrinsic to pulling it off. There is definitely a sense of mutual respect, care and appreciation for one another that develops at a credible place as the movie progresses, but love? I’m not buying it.
For want of a better word, we also have the ‘epilogue’ that comes at the end of the movie, which is neither wanted or warranted as the characters are so paper thin that outside their threatening ordeal, we don’t really have a reason to care about what happens after it. Romantics may love the direction the film ends up taking, but given how the characters’ core values are so at odds with one another that the two of them end up in conflict again and again, it’s impossible to believe that they could actually make it as a couple. Lastly, the dialogue is super cringey at times and its closing shots add up to one of the cheapest finales I’ve seen in recent cinema.