Hollywood directors seem to particularly enjoy plunging Kate Winslet into sub-zero temperatures. A significant part of her acting arsenal appears to be her ability to pretend to be freezing to death, and years of experience have led her to become a convincing survivor of arctic temperatures. In Hany Abu Assad’s latest film, instead of a sunken ship, Kate Winslet’s character ‘Alex’ is now the victim of a crashed aircraft, and a suave Idris Elba replaces a fresh-faced DiCaprio.
Nevertheless, stories of near-death experiences in arctic conditions, interwoven with a dash of romance, seem to be Winslet’s forte. Unfortunately, The Mountain Between Us is nothing but an absurd love story wrapped up in survival mode, with the imminent threat of hypothermia dragging the film’s suspense along. The movie dives into action with a suitable premise; two strangers embark on an unlikely expedition out of pure desperation. Both have different reasons for arriving in Denver by the next morning, and decide to join forces in beating the odds (and the lure of a dangerous storm). Very quickly, their rented aircraft crashes in the middle of nowhere with nothing, but picturesque mountains for company.
From here on, the movie follows their tiresome struggle to survive the freezing temperatures. As it turns out, trying to escape a swathe of snow and precarious conditions isn’t all that easy. The pair have to overcome their issues with one another in order to work together for survival – Alex being the hysterical female journalist and Ben the true, rational hero.
Add in a visit from a hungry mountain lion and a few broken ribs, and you’ve got one big disaster! Only, as luck would have it, Ben is actually a fully qualified neurosurgeon and excellent at dressing wounds. Without a medical degree in sight, the two would undeniably have been gobbled up by wild carnivores within the first few minutes of the movie, so thank goodness for that! The romance unfolds in a predictable, somewhat dreary manner. And that’s not to say their love isn’t implausible – it is fully understandable that any two people subjected to such trauma together would
grow very intimate because of it.
The two become dependent on one another in ensuring their own survival, and end up as close companions because of it. It’s just that this raw passion is truly hammered into the film in a dull, overbearing fashion. Thankfully, there was only one love scene throughout, which was bizarrely interspersed with flashbacks of the growth of their relationship (in a style reminiscent of a cheesy 90’s rom-com.)
Though, the most harrowing issue throughout the film is the uncertainty of their canine companion’s survival. The pilot’s friendly dog miraculously survived the plane crash and spends a great deal of time bouncing through the snow as light relief from the rest of the “action.” As Ben and Alex warm to each other beside an array of homemade fires, the mind wanders to the whereabouts of the dog, aptly named “Dog.” For some time, the dog disappears out of sight, and this provokes a real sense of distress. Which, arguably, should not have been the case. Had Ben and Alex’s quest for survival been actually worthy of screen time, our minds would not zone out and eagerly await the happy little golden retriever’s return.
Somehow, the movie still manages to be entertaining. The melodrama is so overblown and the script so unsalvageable, but it does not fall completely flat, and at times becomes entertaining to watch. Yet the survival element is barely present. With the couple managing to hobble their way out of certain death, delirium from sheer starvation, and multiple infected wounds, everything seems far less compelling. This very forced love story, as capably performed as it is, falls immensely short of making an impression.
Contributed By Katie Abbott