The Mountain between Us (2017)

  • Time: 103 min
  • Genre: Action | Adventure | Drama
  • Director: Hany Abu-Assad
  • Cast: Idris Elba, Kate Winslet, Dermot Mulroney, Beau Bridges


Stranded after a tragic plane crash, two strangers must forge a connection to survive the extreme elements of a remote snow covered mountain. When they realize help is not coming, they embark on a perilous journey across hundreds of miles of wilderness, pushing one another to endure and discovering strength they never knew possible.


  • Alex Martin (Kate Winslet) is a photographer on her way to New York for her wedding. Ben Bass (Idris Elba) is a doctor is on his way to perform an emergency surgery in Baltimore. Fate throws them together when all outgoing flights are cancelled due to an impending storm, prompting the two to share an uncharted flight piloted by local pilot Walter (Beau Bridges), who brings along his trusty golden labrador. Not too long after takeoff, Walter suffers a stroke, the plane crashes, and Alex, Ben and the dog find themselves on a snow-covered mountain.

    That is the first ten minutes of The Mountain Between Us, the film adaptation of Charles Martin’s 2011 novel directed by Dutch-Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad, whose Paradise Now and Omar were both Oscar-nominated for Best Foreign Film. One can see what would have attracted Abu-Assad and his stars to the material as Alex and Ben’s physical journeys are countered with their emotional ones, but whatever Martin developed on the page is sorely lacking in Chris Weitz and J. Mills Goodloe’s screenplay, which often feels unsure as to what should fill out the remaining running time of this nearly two-hour romance disaster.

    The ensuing moments of the crash find the two processing their situation. Alex has suffered a broken leg, Ben is bruised and battered. They have limited food supplies – basically some packets of almonds and cookies – water so long as they can melt the ice, and no cell service. No one knows where they are – Walter hadn’t filed a flight plan, Alex didn’t tell her fiancee she was chartering the flight, and as for Ben…there’s a wedding ring on his finger, but he’s strangely cagey about his wife. Alex thinks they should try to find help, Ben believes they’re safer if they stay and wait for a rescue team, but ends up following her plan when the plucky Alex takes the dog and decides to venture out without Ben.

    Naturally, the couple grow closer as they fend off below freezing weather conditions, cougars, bear traps, and hopelessness. One has no objection to the cliched and inevitable romantic turn to their relationship, but the absolute one-dimensionality is criminal. Make no mistake, Elba and Winslet are magnetic performers who convincingly sell the development. Yet, even taking the characters’ circumstance into consideration, it is extremely odd that there would be no immediate guilt about their newfound feelings for one another, particularly for Alex who had been on her way to get married. To be somewhat fair, the realities of their lives do get slightly addressed in the later stages of the film, but it seems more a narrative obligation than a genuine attempt to acknowledge the complication of reconciling their feelings for one another with what may await them if they have the chance to resume their normal lives.

    Not that one would necessarily want either to return to the real world given the stunning scenery, which is beautifully captured by cinematographer Mandy Walker. No green screen here – filming was mostly in Canada in harsh weather conditions – so all credit due to Elba and especially Winslet, who reportedly did not use a stunt double during the scene where Alex falls into icy waters.

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  • Two strangers named Dr. Ben Bass and Alex Martin (Kate Winslet and Idris Elba), find themselves alone on a mountain after their plane goes down in the middle of nowhere (the pilot had a stroke, ugh). They must try to pull through with limited food, blistering weather, and no sight of rescue. Oh yeah and a dog joins their plight but barely suffers one iota. That’s the gist 2017’s erred, The Mountain Between Us (my latest review).

    So OK, sometimes a movie doesn’t quite succeed with only two troupers commanding most of the scenes. “Mountain”, which feels like a cinematic antiquity from the late 80’s or early 90’s, is sadly that movie.

    Between a lovemaking sequence, a woman falling through frigid ice, a sappy ending, and a terrifying plane crash, The Mountain Between Us is a rinse, repeat cycle of ho hum Survivalism. The two main characters banter, walk aimlessly, and then build many a fire. Idris Elba’s Ben must have one heck of a lighter because he blazes enough logs to equal the lethal destruction of Southern California.

    “Mountain”, with its scenic views of snowy, mountainous Vancouver (which substitutes for Idaho), is like a quasi-love story version of Alive and 2011’s The Grey. The problem is that The Mountain Between Us isn’t as clinching as the two films just mentioned. The screenplay by two writers (Chris Weitz and J. Mills Goodloe) is filled with banalities. It recycles itself while sledgehammering the themes of death, dying, perseverance, and obliged romanticism.

    As for Hany Abu-Assad’s direction (he shot The Idol and 2013’s Omar), well he keeps things tedious and repetitive. His “Mountain” includes almost no persona build-up, relentless snowflakes, and implausible death escapes. Winslet and Elba give decent performances but they have wandered into an unchanging, thriller miscalculation. Rating: 1 and a half stars.

    Rating: 1.5 out of 4 stars

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