Kate Winslet and Idris Elba, two of Hollywood’s most capable actors, find themselves in some deep snow this fall as they play strangers destined to freeze together on a snowy mountain. However, in "The Mountain Between Us," in which surviving is the end game, the thing that truly thrives is their chemistry.
Alex (Winslet) is a photojournalist, eager to get home to her fiancée, who is waiting at the isle. Ben (Elba) is a sullen doctor, trying to get to his patient. Both are desperate to find a flight that will take them through the approaching storm, and both end up wishing they had waited.
When Mother Nature and an incapacitated pilot ultimately strand the two atop a mountain, they are forced to look to each other for the strength to survive, and they end up finding a little something more.
The movie is based on the book, “Mountain,” written by Charles Martin, and directed by Oscar nominee Hany Abu-Assad who makes his transition into slightly less substantial material well-enough, delivering a movie with solid performances and enough scares to make anyone afraid of heights.
Unfortunately for movie-goers, they will have to wait a bit to get to the really good parts of the film, as an uncomfortable 15-minute beginning is plagued by stiff dialogue and quick transitions from one moment to the next. Truly, one wonders if they just made a bad choice when they decided to watch this film, as the whole sequence of events feels more like a glorified TV movie than anything else.
The film picks up after an intense crash scene. That is when the heart and soul of the movie shines through and the audience sees how wonderful these actors are.
Winslet and Elba carry the film marvelously as they go toe-to-toe for dialogue, constantly challenging each other while saving the other from making fatal errors. They are a delightful pairing one never knew they needed to see on screen, and for the most part, seem to emulate what real people may seem like in this situation.
As their relationship builds throughout the film, they naturally fall into one another, instead of a blatant attraction from frame one. It is a wise call, considering the circumstances the film takes place under and sells what would otherwise be another cheesy romance.
When Alex and Ben are not sending sparks flying across the screen, the film is a survival story through and through, where the stress of one moment bleeds into the stressful moment of another. Thankfully, it is not bogged down by its serious tones. In fact, the movie is surprisingly light-hearted and funny. It only makes the apparent attraction between Alex and Ben all that more noticeable, and it will have you championing their survival until the end.
The cinematography of this film is also to be commended. Expansive, wide shots capture the isolation and majesty of the film spectacularly.
Those who become fans during middle hour of the film should not be rooting for Oscars just yet, though. The ending sequence of events throws a kink into what could have been a beautiful ending. That is not to say the ending is horrible. It just feels off and after putting an audience through over an hour of stress, and it should have been better.
To the film’s credit, the movie could have been a flop, but its smart casting, cinematography and progression in its middle act make it worth seeing. What is unfortunate about “The Mountain Between Us” is that the mountain in the middle features the movie's best moments. Having a beginning and ending to match would have made this film even better.
Overall score: 3/5
“The Mountain Between Us” hits theaters Oct. 6.