Film Review: ‘The Mountain Between Us’ Orchestrates a Weak Story and Wasted Talent

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You can’t see a more stiff, less inspired direction than what is witnessed in Hany Abu-Assad’s “The Mountain Between Us.”  Adapted by J. Mills Goodloe (“Pride” and “Everything, Everything”) and Chris Weitz (“About a Boy”), it’s shocking that these two talents would construct such a mundane, overly sappy romantic piece with a tale of survival as the backdrop.  Pencil that in with the waste of two of today’s most gifted actors, Idris Elba and Academy Award winner Kate Winslet, and you have eye-rolling becoming a new Olympic sport by the end credits.

“The Mountain Between Us,” tells the story of Ben (Elba) and Alex (Winslet), two strangers that become stranded after a tragic plane crash.  Together, they 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.

The first half of the film offers up an interesting premise and frames it in an engaging manner.  When the film is a survival story, it works itself into a comfortable pocket.  Elba’s reserved and cautious doctor is convincing while Winslet’s overzealous journalist is a plausible part of the equation.  The second the writers and director take pages from a Nicholas Sparks novel, it slides from reasonable to absurdity.

Turning the film into a ponderous love story was the wrong move.  We witness an engaged woman, with a large leg wound, become one of the most unlikable figures this year.  Alex is constantly complaining, finding herself in peril, and cause more trouble than what is warranted, even in the wilderness.

The couple’s connection is supposed to be this big, heart-rendering surprise, but when you figure it out early on, everything rings false.  The film even skews towards the most unearned ending since “Pompei” offered us a couple hugging in ashes.  Where we thought we were getting something more towards 1993’s “Alive,” we got something more towards “The Last Song” in the cold.  Never for a second do you believe that these two would hook up in the wilderness, following a fall into an icy pond, and in a very convenient magical log cabin that appears for the purpose of lovemaking on an old bed.

The good you can take with you is the superior shots by cinematographer Mandy Walker, who continues to frame scenes with grace and excitement, even if the material is floundering.  However, whoever gave her the go-ahead to end a movie with two close up shots of two people walking away from each other before charging back for a less than romantic kiss should be banished.

If you’re looking for a first date night movie, “The Mountain Between Us” will give you plenty to talk about afterward. It also reaffirms that you two just witnessed, for the first time in movie history, Dermot Mulroney is not the dick, and get’s screwed over by his fiancee.  That’s a win, right?

“The Mountain Between Us” is distributed by 20th Century Fox and is currently in theaters.

GRADE: (★)

Check out the newest Oscar Predictions and see where “THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US” ranks!

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MOTION PICTURE | DIRECTOR |
LEAD ACTOR | LEAD ACTRESS | SUPPORTING ACTOR | SUPPORTING ACTRESS | 
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY | ADAPTED SCREENPLAY | ANIMATED FEATURE |
PRODUCTION DESIGN | CINEMATOGRAPHY | COSTUME DESIGN | FILM EDITING | MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING | SOUND MIXING | SOUND EDITING | VISUAL EFFECTS |
ORIGINAL SCORE | ORIGINAL SONG |

  • Joey Magidson

    Clayton is being generous. This is one of the worst films of the year so far.