Here is a romance about as empty as “The Space Between Us.”
Photographer Alex Martin, played by Kate Winslet, is trying to fly home in time for her own wedding. Unfortunately, a bad winter storm has grounded her flight, leaving her stranded along with another passenger, Dr. Ben Bass, played by Idris “please make this guy the next James Bond” Elba. Alex, luckily, manages to book a private plane bound for her home, and invites Ben to come along. In mid-flight, their pilot has a fatal heart attack, resulting in the plane crash-landing in the mountains of Wyoming. Alex and Ben, as well as the pilot’s dog, which had come along for the ride, manage to survive the crash.
Stranded in the middle of nowhere, they camp out in the plane wreckage for a few days with limited food and plenty of snow to melt and drink. On the other hand, they are unable to flag down any planes for help, and they do not have a beacon to give their location, or even a cell phone signal. Realizing that help will not be coming for them, the two decide to make a perilous trek through the frozen wilderness—full of battle hungry cougars, thin ice, and treacherous inclines—to find civilization and finally get home. Now, these two strangers must learn to trust in each other in order to make it through their situation. As they slowly learn more about each other, they find that their feelings towards each other begin to grow.
The premise of The Mountain Between Us, this week’s new release, has all the elements needed to make it a compelling romantic survival tale, and it has great talent both in front of and behind the camera. Kate Winslet and Idris Elba, both phenomenal actors, are the romantic leads, and two-time Academy Award-nominated Dutch filmmaker Hany Abu-Assad directs.
So, given the premise and the talent, it is pretty shocking that this film feels almost completely lifeless. I personally attribute this problem to the film’s horrendous script, credited to J. Mills Goodloe and Chris Weitz. The problems with the script can be seen right from the very start. Alex invites Ben to join her because she overhears that he has patients to attend to, but this happens so quickly that it seems contrived, as if this scene was pulled straight from the film’s trailer with no edits. The dialogue is also pretty bad, including two moments where a character says, “The heart is just a muscle.” I would like to propose a new screenwriting rule: no writer is allowed to use the word “heart” unless they can make it not sound pretentious.
A pacing issue exists within the entire film, since the characters have to keep moving from one location to another, without any time to properly develop their relationship. Just as a fire cannot continue burning without fuel, a romance cannot blossom without chemistry, and there is none between Winslet and Elba here. Their characters’ attitudes towards each other seem to change at random. Alex seems open and helpful when asking Ben onto the plane, but then literally five minutes later, Alex appears annoyed when Ben tries to explain what an amygdala is. Oh! And Ben explains this while making an out of nowhere plug for the game Candy Crush. It was bad enough when The Emoji Movie did that. Though they do the best they can with this subpar script, it really is a shame to see these gifted and charismatic actors lend their talents to such an uninspired story.
This leads to one of my personal pet peeves (ahem!) with this film: the pilot’s dog. There is nothing wrong with having an animal accompanying a film’s leads, but this dog is nothing but a distraction from the development of the romance. In my opinion, a better title for this film would have been “The Dog Between Us.” I feel the film would have been stronger, and would have had more emotional weight, if it just involved the two leads on their own.
Where the film really falls apart, however, is the ending. I am not going to give away the ending in this review, although this film is so predictable, you probably know how it ends already. There is a point in the film where I thought the film was ending, but then I looked at my watch and realized that there were another twenty minutes left of this almost two-hour film. If the first hour and a half was glacial, the last twenty minutes felt unnecessary and anti-climatic. The final moment in this film rings false and feels cheesy. I blame the dog.
The Mountain Between Us could have been a decent romantic survival film, but it lacks heart. Winslet and Elba are both fine actors, and they do the best they can here, but the script gives them nothing to work with and the direction seems to come and go at random. The Mountain Between Us ends up giving up on the climb before reaching the very top.
The film hits theaters this Friday.