The Mountain Between Us, directed by Hany Abu-Assad, feels like a film that is unwilling to give the necessary time or focus to… anything. Much of the film is rushed in the beginning and from that we are expected to care about two people who are hollow shells with a single characteristic each. There seemed to be a want to make this about the two leads and they’re growing relationship within a life-threatening situation but it fails at that, and thus the only aspect it could have maybe fallen back on (surviving after crashing on a snowy mountain) is left with nothing to ever make it feel like a contributing part of the film. I’m going to struggle to find anything positive to say about this film, but let’s get to the review.
After surviving a place crash, two strangers, Ben Bass – played by Idris Elba – and Alex Martin – played by Kate Winslet – must forge a connection and work together to make sure they make it off the snowy mountain they find themselves stranded on. Their connection will grow as the hardships persist, but will they both make it back alive?
It’s hard to find any sort of connection point with this film, as there is really nothing that is handled in a way that makes it feel whole. Much of the blame falls on how rushed the first act of the film is, which subsequently robs it of the necessary time needed to properly flesh things out and begin to form them into elements worth watching. So much is skimmed over and none of it is ever approached in a way that makes you want to engage with it.
Let’s take the event that kickstarts the whole film: the plane crash. It is well shot and I wish I had enjoyed the intensity of it a little more because it was the last time the film ever got me to care about what was happening on-screen. Once that place is down and Ben and Alex find themselves having to survive, the film quickly descends into being a big snowy pile of nothing. You see, the actual survival element of the film is treated like it’s only an issue when the film sees fit to make it one. Most of the time you do not get the sense that the two main characters are actually in any danger.
I never felt that Alex and Ben were in any serious threat. Apart from when a cougar attacks their campsite, there was never a point where I feared for their safety (but that’s probably also because the longer the film went on, the less I cared about them). I have, and had no clue how long they were stranded on the mountain. I had no idea how much time was passing between scenes. So much context is simply missing from the film. You never see them struggle with hunger or with the freezing temperatures. They might has well have just been wandering around on a winter holiday and accidently got lost for a little bit.
Even the aspect of Alex’s wounded leg (which we’re never clear on the severity of her injury because it seems to change in how bad it is, depending on the scene) should have been something that literally crippled them from making the amount of progress that they do. It is such a non-factor (like everything else needed to survive in their type of situation) that the film is void of any tension or worry… or pretty much any reason to care and invest in the situation that Alex and Ben find themselves in. The film doesn’t care enough to put the time into developing this aspect of the film and making it something, so then why should I have bothered caring?
It was clear that what the film wanted to focus on, was the newly developing relationship between Alex and Ben (two people who were strangers before getting on the plane). So then it’s really confusing as to why this part of the film was also really poorly handled. Again, it comes back to the first act and how poorly done it is – everything is rushed and has no proper base to build from.
I wasn’t until maybe the last 20 minutes of the film that Alex and Ben started to feel like real people who had some sort of noticeable connection (though that connection was miniscule and had failed to grab my investment by the point it finally appeared) but before that they felt mostly like hollow shells waiting to be filled with a personality. For nearly all of the film, they are both defined by one (and only one) major characteristic each, and with that being all there is, the film uses those opposing characteristics against one another, over and over again.
Ben is someone who likes to think things through – to be logical about what the best course of action is and never take what seems like the dangerous option. Alex leaps before she looks. She is freer in how she approaches a situation and relies more on her gut instincts. The two characters are antithetical to one another, which of course creates conflict. The problem is: the film returns to the same conflict, again and again. Alex and Ben’s interactions are circular. They help one another until they come to an obstacle and then they argue about how their way is better and then one storms off and inevitably there is an apology. Then they start that cycle over again, until the film ends. It became really tedious after a while.
And perhaps the biggest problem for the film is that the characters have no believable connection and the actors have absolutely no on-screen chemistry. I never believed in their relationship. Everything goes against making it work. The poor handling of development. A lack of focus on necessary plot elements and the finishing blow: two actors who feel totally distant from one another emotionally. The only character I ever cared about and worried about the well-being of, was the nameless dog that was also a survivor of the crash. I cared more about seeing the dog make it to safety, than I did the two human characters.
It all amounts to a film that has nothing to hold your attention or engage you. It’s boring throughout. It has no heart to it. And it wraps itself up with a really predictable ending that you couldn’t possibly care about, because the film never gave you a reason too.
I DON’T recommend seeing The Mountain Between Us. It offers nothing that makes it worth going to the cinema to see it. At this very moment, Blade Runner 2049 (click on the link if you’re interested in reading my review for that) is in the cinema – now that’s a film you should go see!
What did you think of my review? Let me know in the comments section down below. If you’d like, you could follow both my blog and m Twitter – @GavinsRamblings – I’d really appreciate that. But I’ll finish up now by thanking you for your time and wishing you a wonderful day!