Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama, Survival, Romance.
Starring: Idris Elba, Kate Winslet, Dermot Mulroney, Beau Bridges.
Year Of Release: 2017
Certificate: 12A (UK)
Runtime: 112 Minutes
Director: Hany Abu-Assad
Writer(s): Chris Weitz & J. Mills Goodloe
Synopsis: “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 the wilderness.” IMDB
The Mountain Between Us is as soap opera as they come. Adapted from Charles Martin’s novel of the same name, the romance-survival drama has experienced various stages of production since the project first entered development at the beginning of 2012. With a continually revolving cast and crew, the producers finally settled on Idris Elba and Kate Winslet as their two leads, Hany Abu-Assad as director and a pretty naff script for them all to contend with.
More an amalgamation of other films than one in its own right, The Mountain Between Us cannot settle on what it wants to be. In parts Alive (1993), in others, The Grey (2011), sometimes Love Actually (2003) and at other times The Light Between Oceans (2016), it frequently juggles a handful of plot elements without ever streamlining into a confident, balanced film for our enjoyment. Numerous genres are considered at one time but none are afforded the appropriate resources to develop into their own right.
The survival-thriller aspect is promising, providing a solid first act adventure; but in indulging in the will-they-won’t-they romance at the mid-way point, the film surrenders itself to a plodding love story and completely abandons the superior genre elements found elsewhere. By the time an potential escape option develops, you have forgotten the scope of the situation because it a) doesn’t really stack up, b) the weight of it feels non-existent and c) it lost your attention half an hour ago.
Not helping matters any further is the film’s inability to muster the energy, or inject much enthusiasm, to provide a thrilling or engaging experience. There’s an emotional disconnect after the plane crashes and it is difficult to buy into their jeopardy after that. The script unfurls at a predictable pace, covering the expected narrative beats without surprise to maintain suspense. You rarely have any doubt as to how this story will end which only intensifies the detachment experienced. Chris Weitz and J. Mills Goodloe’s screenplay adaptation has some solid dialogue and set pieces interlaced throughout – including one where a wild animal looks set to tear the whole place up – but it never comes together in a satisfying manner, reinforcing this engagement issue.
Luckily, Idris Elba and Kate Winslet are as reliable and consistent as ever. They form a palpable chemistry instantly and you buy into them as two intelligent individuals with the drive to strive. Because the screenplay cannot provide them with the tools to do so, they skate by on their natural charm and likability; it is why the film is as watchable as it, rather than a complete washout, with the two Brits just about sustaining your attention over the 112 minutes. It could have been a much different story if they didn’t nail the casting. Thankfully, Elba and Winslet handle what is essentially a two-hander (unless you count the dog) as effectively as possible.
Hany Abu-Assad’s direction is fine but slack. A few shades under two hours, we never discover the momentum to keep us going across the extensive feature-length. With long periods of little to no development of any sorts, it is exhausting at times. With some tightening, control, and experience exercised by Abu-Assad, The Mountain Between Us could be streamlined into an effective, sharp 90-minute piece – but in trying to be so many things at one time, the end result is a little uninspired, to say the least. It never kicks the melodramatic tone either, something which pervades through the piece with growing frustration and disappointment.
Still, the film is visually-interesting with some lovely shots sprinkled throughout. The film’s setting provides the audience with some lovely Canadian scenery (where filming took place), including one impressive shot which circles over the top of Elba as he stands gazing at the expansive of snow and ice that stands between him and survival. Enhanced by Mandy Walker’s cinematography, the visuals help elevate the need to see this film on the big screen considerably (but even so, please don’t think you need to rush out to see it). Ramin Djwadi’s rousing soundtrack may not be the most unique either, it still enhances the emotion richly.
Essentially and crushingly, The Mountain Between Us is weakened by its poorly-balanced screenplay. It cannot decide what it wants to be first and foremost: it throws a number of genres into the melting-pot in the hope it develops something that merges together cohesively. Unfortunately, it doesn’t, and so rather than focusing on one element and executing it well, our writers distribute their resources to cover all basis and attract a wider audience. It results in a sloppy screenplay which forces the incoming talent (director and actors, most notably) to desperately try and pick up the pieces to salvage it. With all their might, they try and partially succeed, leading to a watchable, disposable affair – but you cannot help but think The Mountain Between Us should tower over the competition, rather than fall into the shadows of stronger, more capable films.
5 out of 10.