Thursday 19 October 2017

The Mountain Between Us (2017) - Movie Review

The plot: Neurosurgeon Ben (Idris Elba) and photojournalist Alex (Kate Winslet) are both stranded at the airport when their flight is cancelled. Urgently needing to get back, they take an unchartered flight with pilot Walter (Beau Bridges). Unfortunately, the storm that cancelled their original flight hits their new flight and the plane crashes. With Alex terribly injured, they have to find a way to survive the frozen mountain climate and, hopefully, make it back home.

Since we’re dealing with a largely two-man show, save for a brief appearance by Beau Bridges, going over the cast as per usual is a tad pointless. Instead, I’m going to go over their actual characters because there’s something very distinct going on here. It’s both one of the most basic writing conventions possible and surprisingly thorough as done by this film: The characters offset each other. Highlighted essentially as a difference in approaching life, Ben is shown as stable and rather immovable and Alex as restless and needing to move.
Like I said, basic stuff, but where it gets interesting is how that ends up colouring pretty much everything that takes place on screen. Some of it is literal, like Ben getting stuck in a bear trap and literally not being able to go anywhere; some of it is textual, like how Alex insists on moving around despite spending most of the film with her leg in a splint; and some of it is subtextual, like Ben being in a marital situation that he hasn’t come to terms with, meaning that he has yet to ‘move forward’ from it. Rarely do I cover films that show this clear a through line with its characters, something a bit perplexing considering this is co-written by J. Mills Goodloe, who gave us not only The Best Of Me but also Everything, Everything. When it comes to romances, nuance isn’t exactly the first thing I think of where this writer is concerned.

And speaking of romance, this film’s credibility as a romance is both skewed and quite poignant… I’ll try and explain. It’s skewed because, for about two-thirds of the film, this is treated as a survival film with the focus on finding either outside help or resources to help them live through the day. The use of real locations combined with Mandy Walker’s cinematography puts the emphasis on how much ground (or sky, given how high up the mountains are) surrounds them and how much snow is covering it. It’s a bit surface level, in that the feeling of dread never really sinks in too deeply, but the intent is quite clear. Then the romantic angle kicks in properly and the film touches on some rather different ideas. Part of the usual survival film formula is one or more of the characters shown believing that there is no chance of rescue and they accept their fate. That’s shown here, but through the romance, showing two people who seek comfort in each other’s arms in the face of oblivion. For a story that can get rather silly in places, that is certainly a change from the usual tripe that gets served up as romantic.
Not too much of a change, though, as the attempts to create drama in this film range from contrived-but-excusable to outright goofiness. Part of that comes from the fact that, in all honesty, Ben is the character who gets the most development here. Not only that, he gets the most to the point where Alex doesn’t really have anything to do aside from get home while hobbling. She needs to get back home to be married; not exactly the most progressive characterisation I’ve seen, but if they did anything with it save for the final act, I would accept it. Instead, it just leads to them taking stock of their feelings next to the reality of the lives they have returned to, and deciding in rather hilarious fashion (seriously, the ending is one of the hokeyest of any film I’ve yet reviewed), that they will accept the relationship anyway.
Then again, when dealing with something that is far more consequence-free than it thinks it is, the stakes are rather low in that regard. Not only is Alex’s pre-existing relationship ultimately pointless, other than giving her a motivation to get home (because just getting out of a life-threatening situation is apparently not enough of a motivation), Ben’s pre-existing relationship goes through phases… something that makes even less sense once it is fully revealed. It seriously comes across like the writers (and presumably the author of the source material, but saying that would imply that I even knew about the book before this movie came out) couldn’t decide what version of ex-husband they wanted Ben to be, so they just used all of them in rather rapid succession. It’s more than a little trite, is what I’m trying to say.

All in all, while well-acted and containing plenty for the more critically-inclined to pick at, it’s just okay at the end of the day. As negative as this review has probably come across, I don’t have any real disdain for this movie… but no real love either. If you’re a fan of either Winslet or Elba, it’s worth a watch just to see them on screen once again, but otherwise, there’s not a whole lot to miss.

No comments:

Post a Comment