Movie Review: ‘The Mountain Between Us’ a Tale of (Viewer) Survival

Movie Review: ‘The Mountain Between Us’ a Tale of (Viewer) Survival

You couldn’t ask for two stronger actors to headline your survival movie than Idris Elba and Kate Winslet, but they’re out-performed by a yellow labrador in The Mountain Between Us, a laughable tale of survival weighed down by a ridiculous romantic subplot. 

Winslet’s Alex Martin and Idris’ Ben Bass are stuck in Idaho, of all places, when their planes are grounded due to an impending snowstorm. But Alex needs to get married tomorrow in New York! And Ben needs to perform brain surgery in Boston!

So they do what any reasonable strangers would do when faced with the threat of a storm strong enough to ground all major air traffic: charter a rinkydink two-passenger deal from Vietnam vet Walter (Beau Bridges) and his co-pilot, a lovable yellow lab. 

When the plane (expectedly) crashes on top of a mountain and Alex is rendered mostly immobile (Ben somehow escapes this plane crash with a mere bruise), I’m sitting here waiting for the Alive scenario to kick in.

Just when are they going to eat that dog?

But alas, the survival elements in The Mountain Between Us amount to sitting around in the plane waiting to get rescued, bickering about what to do, and walking around aimlessly in the frozen tundra. 

To their credit, the characters in the film probably do have a plan; it’s the fault of the filmmakers (director Hany Abu-Assad and screenwriters J. Mills Goodloe and Chris Weitz, adapting the novel by Charles Martin) that we never know what that plan is. 

You see, never do the characters actually try to survive by seeking out food or shelter; that kind of stuff falls into their lap, whenever convenient. The dog is the only one to try to hunt, briefly chasing down a rabbit. 

At one point the characters have made it, I thought, and have everything they need to wait out a rescue: a cozy cabin in the woods, plenty of wood and tools, a pond to go ice fishing. But not these characters: true survival, for them, is getting back to the comforts of the big city, and the film cannot end until they’ve made it back to Starbucks. 

While these kinds of movies typically end when the lead character(s) finally overcome the odds and make it out alive (or not), The Mountain Between Us continues for a good twenty minutes after the climax has been reached to poke and prod at the human story.

The titular mountain, you see, was a metaphor the whole time. The real mountains are the ones we ourselves put up to separate us from… oh, goodness. Get it? GET IT?!

Whether or not the romance angle in The Mountain Between Us works may well be up to the individual viewer. But I’ll tell you what doesn’t work: the pitiful survival elements, often glossed over or montaged through or recklessly tossed aside. When these characters, starving and badly injured and supposedly freezing to death, strip down for a steamy sex scene by the fire, the film had completely lost me. 

No, the real survival elements here are placed solely on the audience, and how much of this movie they can take.

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