The best on the box
The Mountain Between Us (M, 103mins) Directed by Hany Abu-Assad
The storm couldn’t have come at a worse time for both Alex Martin (Kate Winslet) and Ben Bass (Idris Elba). She’s trying to get home for her wedding and he has emergency surgery to attend in Baltimore. With all commercial flights now grounded, Ben gently suggests she ‘‘gets a voucher before the hotels fill up’’.
However, the ever-resourceful photojournalist has a better idea – chartering a plane. Fortunately, she finds a willing pilot in Walter (Beau Bridges) and Ben, somewhat apprehensively, agrees to share the cost in order to hitch a lift.
Any unease he has proves horribly justified, as while Walter manages to stay ahead of a storm, a sudden deterioration in his health sends the plane hurtling towards the vast and imposing High Unitas mountains and its ‘‘billion acres of raw nature’’.
With Alex knocked unconscious, the scratched, bruised and rib-cracked Ben has to make a decision – stay with the plane, or search for assistance.
It’s hard to believe now that the dream-teaming of Elba and Winslet was actually the third choice (after Michael Fassbender and Margot Robbie and Charlie Hunnam and Rosamund Pike).
Not only do they bring gravitas and emotion to what is potentially a very slushy and pulpy premise, but they also boast genuine chemistry and audiencecompelling charisma.
It’s a pity that J Mills Goodloe ( The Best of Me and The Age of Adeline) and Chris Weitz ( Rogue One, About a Boy) can’t quite achieve lift-off.
Based on a 2011 book by Charles Martin, much of Mountain‘ s dialogue seems a bit too expositional and portentous (‘‘we can go three weeks without food, three days without water and three minutes without air’’) and the ‘danger brings an unlikely couple together’ back story is straight from the Speed playbook.
To its credit, Mountain doesn’t end in an obvious place – an extended coda adding more poignancy and emotional depth than traditional Hollywood romantic action dramas achieve.
And kudos to director (and his dynamic duo) Hany Abu-Assad ( Omar, Paradise Now) for choosing to shoot on-location, adding an extra air – and chill – of authenticity to proceedings. Indeed, he elevates the action and the drama through clever point-ofview shots and camera angles.
But in the end, that Mountain thoroughly entertains – if not completely enthralls – is down to the central pairing.
Let’s just hope someone finds them a slightly better-polished script and more multi-dimensional supporting characters to team up with next time. – James Croot
A United Kingdom, 8.30pm, Saturday, Rialto
While the political machinations of this 2016 based-on-fact drama intrigue, it’s the central love story of Amma Asante’s drama that compels, thanks largely to two magnificent performances from Rosamund Pike and David Oyelowo. The pair’s chemistry is palpable, while their character’s individual strengths and weaknesses are apparent. Elegant, intelligent, evocative and emotioninducing cinema
Whisky Galore, 8.30pm, Sunday, Rialto
Gillies McKinnon’s 2016 update of the 1949 Ealing Studios’ classic (itself based on the real-life grounding of the SS Politician) is far from subtle, but from Eddie Izzard’s constantly black-affronted army man to Gregor Fisher’s scheming postmaster there are plenty of panto-style characters to stir the emotions. At times, the subplot of the latter’s two daughters and their prospective marriages threatens to overwhelm proceedings, but once the search for the smugglers’ ill-gotten gains begins, this alcohol-fuelled farce starts to catch alight.
In the Dark, 9.30pm, Monday, UKTV
New four-part adaptation of Mark Billingham’s novels Time of Death and In The Dark about a Manchester police detective who becomes involved in a case in which the husband of her childhood best friend is accused of kidnapping two young girls, before dealing with an unexpected tragedy.
Being Evel, 8.30pm, Tuesday, Ma¯ori TV
Born in Butte, Montana in 1938, Robert Craig ‘‘Evel’’ Knievel became a hero to millions around the world through his motorcycle feats in the 1960s and 70s. Using interviewees and archival footage, Dark US comedy that focuses on a female con artist who marries people and then disappears with their money. ‘‘It’s a shaggy, ridiculous, tonally inconsistent show, and in the first two episodes, its pacing leaves something to be desired. But it owns its own nuttiness, which allows the audience to adjust its expectations accordingly – and makes for a fun, unexpected journey,’’ wrote Variety‘ s Sonia Saraiya
Dancer, 8.30pm, Thursday, Rialto
This 2016 documentary is about Sergei Polunin, a prodigious ballet talent who questions his existence and his commitment to dance just as he is about to become a legend. ‘‘A gentle inquiry into how a gifted performer disrupts his life in order to test his passion,’’ wrote the Los Angeles Times’ Michael Rechtschaffen.
Rosamund Pike and David Oyelowo star in A United Kingdom.