October 09, 2017
When "The Mountain Between Us" was first announced, it sounded promising.
Two gifted actors in a struggle to survive against time and nature while possibly falling in love – sounds pretty compelling, right? Like the kind of adult fare that people supposedly want to see more in theaters.
Except that "Mountain" ends up being worse than mediocre.
For starters, Idris Elba as a surgeon, Dr. Ken Bass, and Kate Winslet, as Alex Martin, a photojournalist, who both survive a plane crash and suddenly find themselves stranded in High Uintas Wilderness with injuries and harsh weather conditions, have absolutely no chemistry. This becomes increasingly problematic as the writers and director insist on blunting the tale of survival by making it a love story.
Ah, yes. The story, which is based on the novel of the same name by Charles Martin, is credited to screenwriters Chris Weitz and J. Mills Goodloe. However, others were involved and the script was reportedly rewritten many times and shows it. It is never clear what kind of film Hany Abu-Assad is trying to make.
At a partial screening for the film, Abu-Assad said that, " I really didn’t see an epic love story against the background of survival. I think optimism and hope is crucial to survive, and to go on with your life even if you’ve had a lot of bad luck. So if you give (in) to the bad luck, you will die. (But) if you fight the bad luck, you have a better chance to survive and make your life better."
However, he said he decided to change the focus of the film to a love story after Elba replaced Michael Fassbender as Dr. Bass.
"I thought, once we cast Idris, no one has made an interracial love story like this before."
Uh, Hany, it's been 50 years since "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner."
The focus on that versus a truly epic tale of survival diminished the film in a lot of ways.
The forced love story feels tacked on. Additionally, the scene where they crash looks so cheap that I never believed they were in a plane. It looked like they were in a contraption on a Hollywood set.
Also, if Abu-Assad focused more on the survival aspect, maybe Elba wouldn't look like he's sliding on a toboggan versus supposedly the edge of a cliff in one scene. (In another, he tumbles in such a ludicrous manner it felt like I was watching an SNL skit instead of worrying about his safety.)
That is one of the biggest flaws in "Mountain": I never feel like either of the leads is in any true danger. Every time it builds toward that, something convenient happens to protect them and move along the plot, what there is of it.
This all leads to one of the most unnatural love scenes in history and the idea that even weeks after they are back home, they both can't stop thinking about each other. Elba stating that "I think we survived because we fell in love" is never convincing, because we never feel the love during the film's 112-minute run time. He and Winslet have zero chemistry. It is just an element Abu-Assad tacked on to feel progressive – that never quite fits.
Oh, and the film has arguably the most corny final shots you will ever see.
But at least the corn can alleviate the smell a bit from this "Mountain" of manure.