[Screen It]


(2017) (Kate Winslet, Idris Elba) (PG-13)

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Drama: Two strangers end up stranded in the snowy wilderness after their small plane crashes there and try to figure out how to survive.
Photojournalist Alex Martin (KATE WINSLET) and neurosurgeon Ben Bass (IDRIS ELBA) are complete strangers, but when their flight from Idaho to Denver is canceled, they end up in a small plane piloted by Alex's friend, Walter (BEAU BRIDGES). Alex needs to get home in order to marry her boyfriend, Mark (DERMOT MULRONEY), while Ben needs to get back to Baltimore in order to perform surgery on a patient in need. But they don't even make it to Denver as Walter suffers a stroke during their flight and the three end up crashing high atop a snow-covered mountain with no sight of civilization in any direction.

Alex and Ben survive, as does Walter's dog, but the pilot perishes, thus leaving it up to the strangers to figure out how to survive. Despite having an injured leg, Alex wants to head out to try to find help, while Ben thinks that would be certain suicide, especially considering the waist-deep snow, bitter cold, and lack of proper winter hiking gear. He prefers that they stay in what's left of the wreckage, what with it at least providing a little bit of shelter from the elements.

Nonetheless, he reluctantly joins her after she heads off on her own. From that point on, they must contend with various perils along the way as they search for hope, all while experiencing mixed emotions toward each other.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
There's a reason you don't see a lot of films that feature only one character -- such as the Robert Redford lost-at-sea drama, "All is Lost -- or utilize only one for the vast majority of the runtime -- as occurred where Tom Hanks' Chuck Noland spent most of his time alone (if you don't count the volleyball "character" Wilson) in "Cast Away."

And that's because it's difficult to sustain drama -- and thus viewer engagement -- for ninety minutes or more when there's no one to talk to (beyond oneself) or play with or against. For instance, imagine "Jaws" and the great interactions between Brody, Hooper, and Quint versus if it had been just one of them on a boat versus the shark. It might have worked -- at least to some degree -- but more than likely wouldn't have been anywhere as good (and probably wouldn't have been able to use the fabulous U.S.S. Indianapolis story as told by Quint).

For better or worse, that's one of the reasons there are two major characters in a pickle in "The Mountain Between Us" (another being that's how the story was constructed in the book of the same name and from which this drama has been adapted). Yet rather than them facing a shark, being stuck at sea in a damaged boat or ending up on a remote tropical island, Ben and Alex crash-land atop a snowy mountain peak in a small plane where 1) they're unlikely to be noted as missing as a flight plan was never recorded, 2) there's not a sign of civilization as far as the eye can see and 3) the pilot doesn't make it.

Thankfully -- in this adaptation by Chris Weitz and J. Mills Goodloe that's been directed by Hany Abu-Assad -- they don't go all cannibal as occurred in the 1993 film "Alive" (about the true-life incident of a rugby team that crashed into the snowy Andes Mountains), but they must nonetheless contend with being at the mercy of Mother Nature in ungodly harsh environs.

And that's part of what derails the film -- among other things -- in terms of believability and viewer suspension of disbelief. Have you ever tried "walking" through snow that's waist deep or higher in regular pants (vs. snow gear)? I have, and beyond being utterly exhausting walking just fifty feet or so through such depth, one's body heat melts the snow against one's legs and thus you now have wet pants from top to bottom and the absolute rule of surviving being stuck in the cold is to not get wet. And yet, our two main characters -- played by Kate Winslet and Idris Elba -- do just that and somehow manage not to succumb from hypothermia.

Okay, I'll admit that's a bit nitpicky, but a far greater sin is that their ordeal -- that plays out over 100 minutes or so -- is incredibly boring following a particularly harrowing and hair-raising scene in which their pilot (Beau Bridges) suffers a stroke in flight and loses control of their very small plane, resulting in a spectacular crash atop some western mountains.

While he doesn't make it, they do, albeit with a variety of injuries, including to her leg (which, yes, would make trudging through deep snow even that much more difficult), but the pilot's dog somehow makes it unscathed. That is, until an encounter with a mountain lion that would seem deadly, but then we have the dog leaping and bounding through the snow as if nothing happened.

Perhaps it's supposed to be a zombie dog which at least would have made things more interesting and likely would have put a halt to the subsequent development of the cinematically obligatory scene where "strangers stuck in a dire situation, realizing their likely fate (and notwithstanding one having just missed their wedding due to the plane crash,) decide to get all randy and get it on."

Despite Winslet and Elba being talented and incredibly attractive performers, that plot twist not only is about as predictable as they come, but it also simply isn't believable considering the situation and the way in which the characters have been written and the performers directed.

Instead, it's another eye-rolling, seat-shifting, "Oh come on already" comment-inducing moment, one of many that make up much of the film's running time. I guess diehard romantics might fall for some or all of that (if they can get around Winslet's character cheating on her fiancÚ), but for everyone else all of this becomes an increasingly irritating chore to sit through. In the end, you might wish there was a state or two between the characters rather than just the titular geographic feature. "The Mountain Between Us" rates as a 4 out of 10.

Reviewed September 26, 2017 / Posted October 5, 2017

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