There’s a saying about great actors that they are so good you would pay money to watch them read out of a phone book. I suppose one notch down from that is you would watch them stranded on top of a mountain.
“The Mountain Between Us” puts this theory to the test, as Idris Elba and Kate Winslet find themselves stranded on top a mountain in the Rockies with no hope of rescue and not a whole lot else going on.
The two play a couple of type-A strangers who are so desperate to make it to their final destinations when their commercial flights get canceled because of an impending storm, the two agree to pool their resources and charter a flight from an old codger (played by Beau Bridges) with his own plane.
Things do not go well. The plane crashes and the pair have to decide if they should wait for help or take their chances in the wilderness. The best survival movies are often harrowing; packed with loss and pathos while testing the limits of human endurance.
“The Mountain Between Us” isn’t really interested in any of that. It pulls a lot of its punches and, as survival flicks go, it’s pretty toothless.
So then, we’re back to Elba, Winslet, and the mountain. The characters they are given are almost as broad as the landscape. He’s a quiet doctor with a murky past and she’s a photojournalist determined to draw him out of his shell.
Fortunately for the sake of this movie, these are both tremendous actors and they take what little they are given to work with and produce a highly tolerable movie-going experience. Each has the power to add some depth and nuance to even the blandest line of dialogue (of which there are many) and, for the most part, you feel if you have to be stuck on top of this mountain, you’re at least glad it’s with these two.
Director Hany Abu-Assad also lets loose with the cinematography and makes the most of the beautiful vistas and stunning natural beauty of the Rocky Mountains. So, if you really want to boil this movie down to its core, it’s like two great actors reading out of the phone book in front of an Ansel Adams photo.
In the end, the credit for salvaging this film goes right to Elba and Winslet, whose careers will live to fight another day; hopefully in more compelling movies.
“The Mountain Between Us” is rated PG-13 for a scene of sexuality, peril, injury images, and brief strong language.