REVIEW / DRAMA-ADVENTURE/ROMANCE
THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US (M18)
112 minutes/Opens tomorrow
The story: Photojournalist Alex Martin (Kate Winslet) and neurosurgeon Ben Bass (Idris Elba) unwisely charter a small propeller plane to go to Baltimore when their domestic flights are cancelled due to wintry bad weather. She is rushing to get to her wedding, he for a surgery. Their pilot suffers a stroke mid-flight, causing their plane to crash on the deserted snowy mountains in Utah.
A meet-cute romantic comedy sets up two lookers for an unlikely relationship after they encounter each other in a sweet, twee or cheesy situation. The success of such a movie, which is usually predictable, depends largely on the chemistry of the lead actors.
It is why this otherwise predictable meet-grim romantic drama is curiously watchable too: Winslet and Elba on their own often have a compelling screen presence; together, they have little trouble convincing viewers of their desperation and frustration with each other and at their plight and, subsequently, their bond, fostered through agony and resilience.
Director Hany Abu-Assad, working from a script based on Charles
Martin's 2011 novel of the same name, paces Alex and Ben's ordeal on the mountains fairly tightly. There are few unnecessarily prolonged scenes of their seemingly impossible circumstances and an absence, thankfully, of MacGyver-style ingenuity, which would have ruined the triumph of these ordinary folk over adversity.
Ben does not turn into Bear Grylls; he trudges his way from one obstacle to the next with an authentic weariness you do not expect of an actor many would like to see as the next James Bond.
Oscar winner Winslet, as she so often does for her roles, sheds all vanity to play a stubborn, gung-ho photojournalist whose affection for Elba's character is slowly but surely carved out of their initial differences - he prefers not to do anything hasty and stay where they are, hoping for rescue; she would rather die trying to hike her way out of the mountains despite a broken leg.
The two leads' chemistry is undeniable, if subtle. But even their strengths as actors cannot cover up the two major missteps in the movie: the glamorous treatment of their inevitable love-making scene amid desolate, wintry wilderness - before their survival is ensured, mind you - and towards the end, the cliched running-into-each-other's-grateful-arms at the exact same moment.
No amount of solid acting from the two stars can overcome the mountain of Hollywood between them and the audience.