Elba, Winslet get lost in ‘ The Moun­tain Be­tween Us’

Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend - - SUNDAY IN VIRGINIA - BY KATIE WALSH Tribune News Ser­vice (TNS)

Sur­vival ro­mance “The Moun­tain Be­tween Us” seems straight­for­ward enough— a cou­ple of strangers are bonded for­ever when they en­dure a har­row­ing or­deal af­ter their char­ter plane crashes on a moun­tain in Utah. It’s “Alive,” with­out the can­ni­bal­ism, and a lot more ro­mance.

But as the film pro­gresses, it be­comes clear that the ro­man­tic fan­tasy ten­den­cies hi­jack this oth­er­wise in­ter­est­ing, un­con­ven­tional love story in or­der to be­come a sort of bizarre Idris Elba fan fic­tion. This theme has been un­der­scored by the mar­ket­ing of the film as well.

Elba plays a char­ac­ter who’s just too good to be true. He’s a doc­tor who wears fine, ex­pen­sive out­er­wear and lis­tens to clas­si­cal mu­sic on his head­phones. Why does he need to rush back to New York? Be­cause he has to do emer­gency brain sur- gery on a child, of course. One would imag­ine that the source ma­te­rial for the screen­play was a pulpy ro­mance novel. It is, in fact, adapted from a Charles Martin novel and adapted for the screen by Chris Weitz and J. Miles Goodloe. The movie is di­rected by Dutch- Pales­tinian film­maker Hany Abu- As­sad.

Elba’s char­ac­ter Ben, en­coun­ters an­other trav­eler, Alex ( Kate Winslet), while they’re stranded in an air­port, a chance meet­ing that changes their lives for­ever. She’s a pho­to­jour­nal­ist rush­ing to get home to New York for her wed­ding, and sug­gests a pri­vate char­ter plane to this stranger she re­al­izes is in the same predica­ment.

All too soon they’re fight­ing for their lives on a snow- capped moun­tain­top in De­cem­ber, af­ter their pi­lot ( Beau Bridges) suf­fers a stroke while fly­ing. Dur­ing this or­deal, they be­come in­ex­tri­ca­bly bonded, learn­ing a great deal about each other and them­selves. If Ben is the brains of the op­er­a­tion, Alex is the heart — he’s sys­temic and riska­verse, she’s emo­tional and reck­less. Sounds about right for their gen­ders and pro­fes­sions.

What saves “The Moun­tain Be­tween Us” from pulp are the per­for­mances of Winslet and Elba, who share a heart­felt chem­istry as peo­ple who learn to like each other, as much as they might love or hate each other at times.

So why does this hor­rific sit­u­a­tion feel so much like fan­tasy? Be­cause al­most ev­ery step along the way is an­other chance for Ben to hero­ically care for and nur­ture Alex, to al­ways run back for her, to pull her out of frozen lakes and spoon soup into her mouth. Ham­pered with a leg in­jury, the plucky Alex gets to be the damsel in dis­tress, al­ways saved from cer­tain death by her trav­el­ing com­pan­ion.

While Abu- As­sad cap­tures the moun­tain land­scape beau­ti­fully, it’s all pre­sented through rose­c­ol­ored glasses that make it some­how hard to take se­ri­ously. The film shies away from many of the harsh re­al­i­ties to fo­cus on their in­ter­per­sonal con­nec­tion, and per­haps that’s what makes the stakes fade away and the au­then­tic­ity seem an af­ter­thought. “The Moun­tain Be­tween Us” falls flat, strug­gling to truly en­thrall be­yond a ba­sic love story.

TWEN­TI­ETH CEN­TURY FOX

Kate Winslet and Idris Elba share a heart­felt chem­istry in“The Moun­tain BetweenUs” as peo­ple­w­holearn to like each other, as­muchas they might love or hate each other at times.

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