Hany Abu-Assad’s The Mountain Between Us is a strange movie. Not so much because of the content, which does veer from what appears to be a survival film before riding off the rails into a schmaltzy romance. No, it’s weird because Idris Elba and Kate Winslet — who are basically 50 percent of the cast — are, for all intents and purposes, well-respected actors. Why they’re here in such a middling, forgettable movie is a mystery beyond the machinations of a paycheck.
There is the vague scent of Oscar bait here, with the dire situation the characters have been placed into, the feel-good ending and the cute dog. There’s even a long, uncut shot that reeks of director Abu-Assad (The Idol) trying to prove that he’s a true filmmaker, one with vision and style. I don’t begrudge him attempting to put a stamp on such paltry material, but The Mountain Between Us is exactly that. There’s just not much anyone can do with a script like this, making it all the more confusing why someone ponied up the millions of dollars it took to get it made.
The idea here is that two very disparate people, one a matter-of-fact brain surgeon (Elba) and the other a more romantic, idealistic photographer (Winslet) find themselves stranded in the middle of a mountainous wilderness after their chartered flight crashes. With little hope of being found, the two — along with their dead pilot’s (Beau Bridges) cute dog — set out across the snowy terrain in an attempt to find civilization. Occasionally butting heads, the two eventually find a common humanity and even a sense of love — despite Winslet being engaged.
I’m not even complaining about this as a foundation for a picture, but The Mountain Between Us finds itself in its most logically cornball situation once the credits finally roll. And it’s easy to tell that this is where the film is headed from its opening scenes, complete with its gauzy, gently lit scenes. There’s never any sense of danger or true dramatic tension. Doing so, one senses, would be too much for the treacly heart that beats underneath the surface.
Elba and Winslet are solid, while there are some magnificent vistas of craggy, snow-covered mountains, but what does it all amount to? It’s not even willfully awful, just very passively mediocre. At least until the ending hits, which is one of the goofiest things I’ve seen thrown up on a movie screen in a while. But even as a connoisseur of goofy cinema, this is hardly a reason to watch this movie. Unfortunately, it’s the closest reason there is. Rated PG-13 for a scene of sexuality, peril, injury images, and brief strong language. Now playing at AMC Classic, Regal Biltmore Grande, Carolina Cinemark, Epic of Hendersonville.