If you’re going to watch two attractive people slog through the snow for almost two hours, you could do a lot worse than Idris Elba and Kate Winslet. But both actors deserve better than the middling disaster movie The Mountain Between Us, which can’t decide whether it wants to be a chilling survival movie or a sweeping romance. It never fully commits to either genre, and the result is a forgettable adventure that leaves you feeling cold.
Directed by Hany Abu-Assad (the Oscar-nominated foreign language films Omar and Paradise Now), the movie stars Elba as Ben, a neurosurgeon trying to get from Idaho to Boston for a surgery in the morning. Winslet is Alex, a photojournalist who’s flying to her own wedding back in Brooklyn. He’s all logic, prone to saying things like, “I need to occupy my amygdala.” She thinks he should listen to his heart more often. When they’re both stranded in an airport, they decide to team up and charter a plane to get them home. Before long, the pilot (Beau Bridges) has a stroke somewhere over the Rocky Mountains, and they crash land in a hostile wilderness, miles from any other human being. Their only company is the pilot’s yellow lab, and together, man, woman, and dog have to decide whether to stick it out and wait to be rescued or try to brave the perilous trek back to civilization.
Ben and Alex’s journey includes a few moments of serious peril — the actual plane crash scene is claustrophobic and unnerving — but their trek never feels quite as harrowing as it should. They discuss their dwindling supply of food, but things never get so dire that they vocally question whether or not to eat the unnamed dog. (The film’s spoiler-heavy marketing has leaned primarily on two concepts: Idris Elba is very attractive and the dog doesn’t die.) Instead, the script is filled with clichéd heart-to-hearts about commitment and relationships, and a ridiculous epilogue takes the film into blatant rom-com territory. Elba and Winslet each breathe life into their stock characters, but the film never meets their level. This is one Mountain that never reaches great heights. C