James Cole Clay // Film Critic
THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US
THE MOUNTAINS BETWEEN US is an icy romance that’s subzero temperatures won’t penetrate your soul, but its a pretty solid movie.
Now that the silly weather-related puns are out of the way, we can discuss Hany Abu-Assad’s tale of survival, love, and… that’s pretty much it. This isn’t a deep story of the human will to survive, but this is a completely adequate and unassuming story starring Idris Elba (THE DARK TOWER) and Kate Winslet (THE DRESSMAKER), who are always going to deliver, even if their material around them is lacking.
As funny as it may seem, this is a romance-disaster that delivers on both fronts. This is the kind of film that Hollywood execs will easily go for. Just picture BEFORE SUNRISE, but with a plane crash, a dog and lots and lots of ice. It seems to have appeal for both men and women on paper. At times, it’s actually a bit sexy, and other times, moderately moving. It just about as serviceable as an adult drama can be; it’s completely unoffensive and tastefully done, which will please the mild arthouse crowd. However, given the barren and stunningly beautiful setting, Abu-Assad’s direction could have used a little more poetry.
The story has a classic setup: A devil-may-care photographer named Alex Martin (Winslet) is missing her flight due to stormy weather, but she’s got to get back for her wedding to her fiancé — played by Dylan McDermott or Dermot Mulroney, one of those guys. To get back, she uses a fellow weary traveler, Ben Bass (Elba), to go halfsies on a pocket plane. (I think this is supposed to be a cost effective move for the two main characters? It’s never really clear, only used as a device to get two beautiful people in a tiny plane together.) Tragedy strikes, and the two save an adorable yellow lab. The dog can be found jumping through the snow and chasing rabbits through the film; it’s the stuff YouTube is made for.
There’s nothing new to offer the movie-goers in this situation, other than the company of two eternally lovable actors sparring with one other in a calm, and woefully plain, back and forth. Despite the easy criticisms on the film, Abu-Assad allows this film to be quiet as a character study. It’s about how we adapt to dire situations. Even though you can see how isolated Ben and Alex are, the danger is rarely ever truly felt, only implied by the director’s string pulling. There’s a “will they, won’t they” vibe that echoes across the film, and the filmmakers marinate on glances and disagreements.
The Dutch-Palestinian director’s previous titles, OMAR and PARADISE NOW, were more politically-charged works. And despite the more middling subject matter here, he finds inspiration in the outdoors. His love for photography and his admiration for breathtaking landscapes shine in certain transitioning scenes. Even though THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US operates on a an uneven terrain, there’s enough romance and smiles to carry it over a few peaks and valleys.
THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US opens on Friday, Oct. 6.