Survival romance proves to be a mountainous failure

Photo courtesy of Andrea Raffin, Wikipedia

“The Mountain Between Us” is, without a doubt, the funniest comedy… The film will have the audience in the theater doubled over, weeping with laughter by the end. The only problem being that “The Mountain Between Us” isn’t intended to be a comedy in the slightest. In fact, from its advertising, it’s supposed to be a pretty serious affair. 

The film stars Kate Winslet and Idris Elba, as Alex (Winslet), a journalist, and Ben (Elba), a neurosurgeon, who crash-land in the Rocky Mountains with no hope of help after their pilot has a stroke mid-flight. The two strangers—and a dog that was clearly added to gain audience sympathy—must band together to survive the harsh winter and escape. The film starts with a great premise. It’s beautifully shot, with some great close-quarters drama between Ben and Alex in the crashed plane. When they exit the wreckage and get out into the wilderness, it’s a sight to behold. The beautiful, rugged vistas of the Rockies, coupled with the beautiful, impeccably dressed Elba and Winslet make the film often feel like an overly dramatic shoot for Abercrombie’s winter catalogue. The awe-inspiring cinematography can’t hide the cracks in the plot for long, though. 

The drama of their survival is unconvincing—Alex has a horrific broken leg that somehow doesn’t slow her down or cause her much pain. Ben shows himself to be an outdoor survival genius, starting fires from nothing, effortlessly fixing wounds and staying far calmer than any real person would in their situation. The movie markets itself like it’s going to be a rough, realistic survival film, but every problem that arises is solved so quickly and conveniently that it robs the film of all real drama. This puts the pressure on the chemistry between Winslet and Elba to carry the film, but they’re no more than fine. They’re talented, charismatic actors and their attempts to make the subpar script work are admirable, but slowly, the film begins to fall apart and reveal its true nature. This was never a survival film or an action film. This film is a cheesy romance hiding behind the façade of a survival drama, and the romance aspect is clichéd and out of place in a movie where both characters are supposedly malnourished, frostbitten and broken.

I won’t reveal too much, but there are some revelations about each character that made the entire audience groan, monologues that felt like they were ripped from a failed Instagram poet’s feed and—spoiler—a jarring, ridiculous sex scene that verged on softcore porn. It might as well have been set to Kenny G. The third act, which focuses on the romance between the two, feels completely forced and disconnected from the rest of the film. The audience’s desire for it to just end was palpable. The thoroughly melodramatic and silly ending finally sent myself and the rest of the audience over the edge of wanting to like the movie into uncontrolled derision.

“The Mountain Between Us” could have been a good, or at least a decent film. I would have been excited to see a film where Idris Elba and Kate Winslet survive a horrible disaster together and discover the limits of human willpower. This film marketed itself as that, but what I saw was not that film. “The Mountain Between Us” has redeeming qualities and is occasionally enjoyable, but how a film looks or sounds on paper doesn’t matter much when a crowded theater is howling laughing at the most dramatic parts.