The Mountain Between Us (2017 USA)
The Mountain Between Us goes one of two ways:
- 1)Missed opportunity
- 2)Diamonds from coal
It stars Idris Elba and Kate Winslet, two of the best actors working today – as I’ve said many times before, Winslet is the best actress of my generation and other than Gwyneth Paltrow, it’s not really even close. Elba was the breakout star of The Wire even though his character only appears in three seasons, but the combination of writing and Elba’s interpretation character made Stringer Bell one of the most compelling characters to ever appear on a television show.
Both take what they are given and do their best with it. Winslet suffers not for anything that is her fault, but what Roger Ebert ages ago referred to as Ali MacGraw Syndrome (or some such thing) where the sicker the girl gets, the better she looks. Elba is, as usual understated except when he must necessarily rile, and he is one of the rare gifted actors who can make even throwaway lines land like haymakers.
The problem is the script, not the story. There are lines and plot contrivances that are cringe-inducing, and even if the story is a mild stretch, the same setup has been treated infinitely better by many writers, notably David Mamet in the criminally mis-titled bear film The Edge.
One of the fatal mistakes made is setting up early and often the notion of “will they or won’t they” regarding the characters sleeping together. That’s awkward enough in sudden meet cutes, but these are two people fighting for their lives after a plane crash high in the mountains and no rescue coming. Winslet’s leg is broken and they have little food, and the only real hunting implements they have above the tree line are a dog that survives the crash and a flare gun.
In a way, I could see some sort of sexual tension if you really thought this was it, I’m going to die. But Elba is recently separated from his wife, and Winslet is in the process of missing her wedding because of their calamity. The insertion of needless tension when the actual “trying to not die” part is far more interesting lards the plot and leads to some horrible lines and testing of the audience’s patience by way of their intelligence (anyone who couldn’t spot the twist coming with Elba in the third act needs to wear a helmet when leaving the house).
The okayness of the story combined with the two primaries makes it worth a watch. It’s a wasted opportunity in many senses, but Elba and Winslet are always interesting on-screen, and they work well together.