Call it old-fashioned, but The Mountain Between Us is the kind of movie Hollywood studios don’t seem interested in making much anymore. Major studios used to thrive on bestselling books adapted for the screen with two movie stars in a story of survival and love. Clearly made to appeal to an underserved adult audience, this beautifully shot drama is like a throwback with a contemporary outlook that can thank inventive teaming of Kate Winslet and Idris Elba for making it work as well as it does.
Certainly some of the plot points defy logic or reality, but the execution of it more than helps to plug the holes. As I say in my video review (click the link above to watch), this is the kind of film that is just pure entertainment involving two people who find each other in the midst of the worst possible conditions.
Winslet plays Alex, a photographer stuck in a Colorado airport where weather conditions threaten to keep her from getting back to NYC for her wedding the next day to Mark (Dermot Mulroney). When her flight is canceled, she eyes another passenger, Ben (Elba), a doctor who also is complaining that he must get back for an emergency operation on a 10-year-old child. Alex persuades him to join her in chartering a plane, and they head out to join pilot-for-hire Walter (Beau Bridges) and his dog in order to get to Denver en route to their respective destinations. Although a coming storm is a problem, things really get bad when the pilot suffers a heart attack and the plane crashes on a mountain 11,000 feet up. He dies, but his dog and passengers survive the impact — only to discover there might be no way out of this freezing location in the middle of nowhere.
As the weather gets progressively colder, their relationship born out of tragedy warms up, secrets are revealed and past lives uncovered. Yes, this is a story of survival under the most harsh circumstances but also a tribute to the perseverance of the human spirit and connection to each other, even total strangers. Adding some lightness to it all is an adorable dog (Raleigh) who turns the pair into a trio as they try to figure a way off this mountain.
Working from a script by Chris Weitz and J. Mills Goodloe, Oscar nominated director Hani Abu-Assad (Paradise Now, Omar) gets his first shot at a big studio picture and doesn’t disappoint as he keeps it all grounded in a very human way. He is helped enormously by the camerawork of cinematographer Mandy Walker, who has some pretty spectacular locations to work with. It was shot in the Purcell Mountains in British Columbia. Abu-Assad also is helped by Winslet and Elba, who give it all their pure movie-star best and make you believe they could fall for each other amid life-threatening chaos. The film also has a lilting, piano -heavy score from composer Ramin Djawadi that helps drive the story on its own terms, even heightening weather effects like pounding wind. The production values overall are top-notch, particularly the harrowing plane crash — which remarkably was accomplished in one shot. Peter Chernin, Dylan Clark, David Ready and Jenno Topping produced the film, which 20th Century Fox releases Friday.
Do you plan to see The Mountain Between Us? Let us know what you think.