The Mountain Between Us Kate Winslet, Idris Elba. Directed by Hany Abu-Assad. Rated PG-13. Opens Friday citywide.
From the moment handsome, brooding doctor Ben (Idris Elba) and beautiful, passionate photojournalist Alex (Kate Winslet) meet in The Mountain Between Us, it seems obvious they’re destined to fall in love. But screenwriters Chris Weitz and J. Mills Goodloe (working from Charles Martin’s bestselling novel) and director Hany Abu-Assad downplay the potential romantic connection for much of the movie, focusing instead on the wilderness survival story, as Ben and Alex are stranded in the mountains of Utah following a plane crash.
Both rushing to get home (Ben to perform an urgent surgery, Alex to attend her own wedding), they charter a small private plane when bad weather has grounded all commercial flights, and thanks to a series of mishaps, they end up alone in the cold, desolate mountains, with bleak prospects for rescue. Although they argue occasionally, the pair mostly work well together as they attempt to stay alive and return to civilization. As a survival drama, Mountain is visually striking (it was shot mostly in the mountains of British Columbia) if a bit dull, with Ben and Alex proceeding competently through their harsh surroundings, only occasionally encountering real danger.
Novelist Martin is often compared to Nicholas Sparks, and the story’s inevitable turn toward romance, especially in a tacked-on third act that drags the story past its reasonable endpoint, is sappy and unconvincing, potentially undermining the seriousness of the peril the characters are meant to be in. Elba and Winslet are both talented actors at their peak attractiveness (even being stranded in the mountains does nothing to diminish Ben and Alex’s hotness), but they don’t have enough chemistry to justify the kind of sweeping, fateful love that the film tries to convey. It’s an awkward afterthought to an already sluggish adventure story.