When a private twin-engine charter flight crashes into the top of the Rocky Mountains in January, who knew a survival thriller could or should develop into a romantic drama? Fortunately, Academy Award winner Kate Winslet and Golden Globe winner Idris Elba perform marvelously and are compelling for their strength, vulnerability and chemistry.
Based on the novel by Charles Martin, the story isn’t that complex and is even somewhat predictable, but with the ominous circumstances; it’s captivating throughout, immensely entertaining and relatively easy to watch. This could have been especially challenging when both actors are featured in almost every scene of the movie.
Dr. Ben Bass (Elba) is a surgeon, trying to get to his patient, while Alex Martin (Winslet) is a photojournalist on her way to get married. At an Idaho airport, inclement weather has cancelled all flights to Denver. As the weather begins to break, Alex is desperate. Sensing an opportunity, she approaches Ben with an offer to share a private charter.
Walter (Beau Bridges), the pilot, assures the couple of his credentials, so off they go into the wild blue yonder. All goes according to plan until somewhere over the Rockies, something goes terribly wrong and the plane crashes on a slope far from anything or anywhere. Surviving are just Ben, Alex and Walter’s Golden Retriever.
Neither Ben nor Alex notified anyone of their change of plans, so nobody knows where they are. With the radio damaged, no cell phone service, very little food or water and no idea how far or which direction to go, especially with the terrain and their respective injuries, decisions must be made. But, they have their own ideas and action plans.
Alex thinks, “We can live three weeks without food, three days without water and three minutes without air.” Ben looks at the supplies of a sandwich, couple of candy bars and a few cookies. Alex jokingly asks, “What kind of cookies?” The circumstances call for dark humor, but their frustration also generates disagreements and exasperation.
Filmed in the Canadian Rockies, the mountains are gorgeous, but terrain is steep, snowy and unforgiving, while the air is thin and icy cold. Meanwhile, blizzards are imminent and hungry mountain lions are on the prowl. The plane is wrecked, but sections can provide temporary shelter until the couple is found.
As Ben and Alex just met at the airport, they are two strangers totally dependent on each other for their very survival. Expecting a long and arduous ordeal in the extreme elements, they must get to know each other, learn to work together and be prepared to repeatedly save each other from the brink of death.
When they eventually conclude help is not coming, they embark on a treacherous journey across miles of wilderness, pushing one another to discover strength they never knew possible. They wonder if their lives will change when they return. But first, they must survive another day. Through each hurdle, they passively grow more entwined.
Idris Elba and Kate Winslet are terrific but Michael Fassbender and Margot Robbie were originally cast. When they dropped out due to a scheduling delay, Charlie Hunnam and Rosamind Pike were announced. When that didn’t work, Elba and Winslet were signed.
“The Mountain Between Us” is 103 minutes and rated PG-13 for peril, injury, sexuality and brief strong language. In their roles, Winslet is an American and Elba British. In life, they are both British. The scenario is somewhat far-fetched, but far-fetched hurricanes, mass shootings and political governance seem to be the world we live in today.
From the outset, cinematographer Mandy Walker’s (“Australia”) magnificent shots of the foreboding peaks send “chills” down the spine of the audience. The story is not that special, but we are engaged enough to ask ourselves what we would do in each circumstance. Mostly, we care about the couple every minute of their ordeal. Just wish they’d have played during the credits, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough!”
Ron’s Rating: B
Leigh’s Rating: B+