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Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017 10:27 pm

Ending Mars “Mountain”

I sometimes wonder why actors and actresses chose to appear in the movies they do.  I’m sure some choices are made because of the size of the paycheck they’re getting, others are done in the hopes of vying for an Oscar, while some are done to increase their brand or name recognition.  And then there are movies like “The Mountain Between Us” that falls outside of all of these categories.  I can’t imagine that its stars, Kate Winslet and Idris Elba, would be tempted by the shooting location of this project, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and this isn’t the sort of film that will increase their name recognition or cause their hat to be thrown in the ring for any awards. 

Ben (Idris Elba) and Alex (Kate Winslet) are on a flight that will change their lives in The Mountain Between Us.
Courtesy 20th Century-Fox

No, I think one thing that drives movie stars is ego, the notion that they have talent enough to turn any sow’s ear of a script into a silk purse of a movie, that they crave a challenge, trying to make the ridiculous seem plausible.  I gave this a great deal of thought while watching “Mountain,” which should tell you just how engaging it is.  Actually, I can give it the greatest of backhanded compliments I can think of by saying that it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.  Then again, neither was my colonoscopy but that’s neither here nor there.

Winslet is photographer Alex Martin and Elba is neurosurgeon Ben Bass and they are both stuck at a California airport, their flight having been cancelled due to inclement weather.  Well, that simply won’t do as she has to get to New York City for her wedding and he has an emergency surgery to perform on a young boy.  Desperate and in a hurry, they charter a private plane and once they’re in the air, the pilot (Beau Bridges) promptly has a stroke and dies.  The pair survives the horrendous crash that follows – Alex with a broken leg and Ben with some bumps and bruises – and try to figure out how they will survive this ordeal.

Needless to say, they have more than a few obstacles to overcome, including but not limited to, sub-zero temperatures, blinding snow, mountain lions, harsh winds, a lack of food and a really, really long walk back to civilization.  To their credit, the two leads and director Hany Abu-Assad are able to make the situations and the couple’s solutions to them seem believable.  As Man vs. Wilds films go this is one of the more plausible entries.

Ben (Idris Elba), Alex (Kate Winslet) and their canine friend make a plan for their survival in The Mountain Between Us. 
Courtesy 20th Century-Fox

Of course, when trapped in stressful situations, sex is always in the offing, or so I’ve been told, so it comes as no surprise that Alex and Ben jump in the sack the first time an opportunity presents itself.  This is all handled quite tastefully and doesn’t derail the film as it could in lesser hands.

Winslet and Elba are much better than the material and succeed in elevating it above the level of a gothic romance.  Neither of them phone it in, creating realistic characters in a story that skirts the edge of ridiculousness at every turn.  However, their sincerity is not reflected in the movie’s ending, a crowd-pleasing climax that opts for narrative safety rather than story-telling honesty. 

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