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The Mountain Between Us – Movie Review

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The Mountain Between Us – Movie Review

Rating: D+ (Bad)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy 20th Century Fox

The expectation that greets two well regarded actors in a survival thriller is certainly high. The Mountain Between Us feels like it should be a fairly prestigious project and yet the result plays it far too safe and doesn’t take the risks it should. There is no moment of tension or even worry for two characters who are largely unlikeable and with little interest in their escapades. That makes for a long and tedious experience, despite the best efforts of Kate Winslet and Idris Elba to add something to the lightweight material. The final stretch marks an especially irritating turning point when the film goes from just mediocre and flat to something else entirely.

The main element that falters The Mountain Between Us is the surprising lack of chemistry between Winslet and Elba. The film tries to foster a growing relationship between them, but the lack of any proper three-dimensional characterization makes it tricky. Winslet, in particular, gives one of her weaker performances and there is not much of a connection to be found with her bride-to-be and Elba’s seemingly intelligent surgeon. At no point is there any sympathy towards these people stuck out in the frozen tundra. The contrived way the screenplay, adapting Charles Martin’s novel, gets them stuck in their situation feels like too much unnecessary work for something that could be handled in a more simple manner.

The problems they come across are easily resolved not long afterwards, lessening any potential tension. Even the dog the two characters take with them on their journey doesn’t provide much of a reason for being there, beyond easy sympathy from the audience. When their friendship goes to the next level, it feels sudden and largely unearned. While watching the bickering between the two, one doesn’t get the sense they are forming a bond. Director of photography Mandy Walker does shoot the wilderness with a real eye for the landscape and captures the potential coldness and claustrophobia of the conditions the leads find themselves in.

The other major flaw of The Mountain Between Us is the need to tie everything with a bow. The film is never content to leave things ambiguous. Without revealing spoilers, this is especially bothersome in the climax. Based on what transpired in the preceding portions of the film, there is little interest in what follows. Director Hany Abu-Assad stretches the finale out, feeling the need for a sense of closure. Even Delmot Mulroney is dragged into a thankless role and one imagines him sharing drinks with Beau Bridges at the studio bar, wondering if they missed out on a more meaty role in a TV movie of the week. The longer it goes on, the more annoyed one gets as Abu-Assad wastes quite a few opportunities to end the film on a more fitting spot.

The Mountain Between Us is just unengaging and mediocre through a lot of it as we watch Kate Winslet and Idris Elba attempt to make us care about two uninvolving personalities. However, this is a film that does not hold up to scrutiny and the final twenty minutes are especially insulting. Ambiguity is an underrated quality and one could have admired this film a bit more, if it was willing to go in that direction. Instead, it offers no surprises and is far too clean to make much of an impact. One hopes Winslet and Elba can find a project they can team up on, that gives them far more worthy material. Both of them are better than this stale survival nonsense.


Stefan Ellison

Stefan Ellison