Hany Abu-Assad’s first English language endeavour is The Mountain Between Us, a romantic drama set in the uncompromising, harsh snowy wilderness – of two stranded people who fall in love. But isn’t it just mere circumstantial; two people who think they might die so may as well get together before they do? Or it genuine and sincere? Regrettably, the former seems somewhat more likely – which proves to be detrimental to a film that requires the viewer’s investment in the paramount coming together. A will they/won’t they, where you aren’t too fussed if they will or they won’t.
Doctor Ben Bass (Idris Elba) is desperate to catch a flight to conduct surgery, while Alex Martin (Kate Winslet) is equally as determined, for she’s to walk down the aisle the next day and marry her husband. But there’s a storm incoming, and all flights are cancelled – so the two strangers approach an independent pilot (Beau Bridges), who agrees to take them to their destination, in spite of the conditions. But when he suffers from a stroke in the cockpit, the plane crash-lands in the middle of nowhere, leaving Ben, Alex and the pilot’s unnamed dog in a bid to survive, with odds stacked heavily against them.
Given the fact the film is set in primarily one setting, and with just two characters, you couldn’t be blamed for expecting a somewhat slow-burning, pensive affair – but Abu-Assad maintains a fast pace with a vital injection of humour thanks to some witty, sharp dialogue. There are also brief moments of peril included with a minimum contrivance. The director must also be commended for ensuring we remain invested, despite the palpable lack of back story. There’s a scene towards the latter stages where Alex admits she doesn’t know anything about Ben – and it’s at this moment we realise that we agree. But we still root for their survival nonetheless, mostly because we want to see the dog make it out alive.
The film is a little contrived in parts though, such as when the pair are snuggling up in the snow, and Alex asks that Ben plays a song on his phone, despite the fact it may kill his battery. She wants him to play the same song he was listening to at their airport in his headphones when she first approached him. Thankfully for the filmmakers, it just happened to be a moving, classical piece that helps to enrich and inform the tone of the movie, and make for a rather sweet, romantic sequence. But it could’ve been ABBA, or Tupac. Madonna’s Frozen would’ve been unfortunate.
The Mountain Between Us is a mediocre film that has been elevated by two very good actors signing on to the project – while the director isn’t half bad himself. Having been behind the excellent Palestinian drama Omar – a film about two people who fell in love in difficult, adverse conditions, after this outing it’s evidently an area Abu-Assad seems comfortable in, and one we’d be happy to see him explore further.