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Review: The Mountain Between Us

by Eric Blume

I know what you’re thinking:  you’ve watched the trailer for The Mountain Between Us, the new movie where Kate Winslet and Idris Elba are stranded in the mountains together after a plane crash.  And since you’re a smart moviegoer, you probably thought, 'okay the trailer looks a little bit terrible, but it’s Kate!  And Idris!  They’re so sexy and talented!  Surely the movie itself can’t be that bad?'

I’m sad to report, it truly is...

There’s no plot to report, that’s it.  Kate and Idris are the only survivors of a private plane crash in some seriously remote snowy mountains.  There’s nowhere for the story to go other than the two of them falling in love, so I can’t imagine this review contains spoilers.  Which would of course be fine if there were any artistry in that journey.

You know you’re in trouble when the plane crash itself is one of the most deadly dull crashes in screen history.  Then you realize what you have ahead of you:  ninety more minutes of uneventful, contrived survival sequences between two severely underdeveloped characters.  The nature of the story is that we know little about this duo, and nothing ever deepens.  They are accompanied by a very handsome labrador retriever, who is exploited less for reaction shots than one might think in a movie of this nature.

I’m not sure what went wrong.  Director Hany Abu-Assad has two Oscar nominations under his belt for Best Foreign Film, for his stunning Paradise Now (2005) and  solid Omar (2013). This guy is a talented filmmaker.  He wants to pull off a slow-burn love story where the characters are robbed of everything but their most basic needs and emotions, but the script doesn’t support him, and he seems unsteady with his lead actors.

Kate Winslet is one of the most charismatic actresses to ever stand in front of a camera.  Yet, in this movie, she's missing even her signature spark; she seems preoccupied or bored, as if waiting for the shooting schedule to wrap up.  And, sadly, she and Elba have zero chemistry, surprising as that might be.  Elba fares a hair better, but his character is a collection of love story clichés.  They look stunning together, but both are curiously uninspired.

Despite a basic situation that should inspire abject terror, both leads wake from the violent plane crash with little more than a sigh.  It’s a film constructed by movie emotions and motivations, not real human behavior.  It's schematic and false, engineered to provoke an audience response.  You end up rooting for the most authentic character in the movie, the dog.

more from Eric Blume
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Reader Comments (7)

Saw a free screening of it so bear that in mind, but I didn't mind it. It was middling yes, but the scenery was nice and Winslet/Elba were good together. The dog is the MVP.

Also I read up on the novel this was based in and while this movie's script could've been better, they apparently made so many good changes which I felt grateful for. Just one change for example... Idris' character in the novel is named Ben Payne. Yup, Dr. Payne. NO.

October 10, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

Ryan T.: Which wouldn't be insurmountable, except Kate Winslet's character in the book is named, wait for it, Knox. Payne and Knox. The man is Payne and the woman is Knox. How delightfully corny and not uncomfortably Freudian.

October 10, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

It's funny that you mention that cause Kate has brought up the shooting schedule like 7 times in her interviews about the movie.

October 10, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSteve_Man

The dog should get an Oscar nomination

October 10, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterjaragon

We just saw this movie at the theatre .We actually enjoyed it. I mean it wasnt the best movie we watched lately but it was rather how shall I say Quaint.......
I think it was rather romantic and a bit risky. I mean two complete strangers who cant stop thinking about each other even after returning to the lives they thought they loved.
Makes you still believe anything good can flourish from devastation....

October 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAutumngirl

Em, wasn't Rosamund Pike meant to be in this?

October 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAmandaBuffamonteezi

I thought it was a good movie reminded me a little bit of Romancing the Stone. As far as character development I felt like characters developed through the movie. I think one of these days I may try reading the book because the books are usually better and have more character development. I was excited to find out that the movie was supposed to be taking place in the Uinta Mountains in Utah a place that I can't frequently however the actual filming took place somewhere up in Canada which was unfortunate because the Uinta Mountains in the winter would have offered the same kind of conditions and scenery as we saw in the movie. As far as the story though I enjoy the movie

October 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCarpet Man

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