THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US, popular author Charles Martin’s fifth novel (336 pages, 2011) gets a $35,000,000 big-screen makeover in 2017, slamming Kate Winslet and Idris Elba into dire straits, trying to survive conditions in Utah’s high country wilderness. Injured. In the winter.
All flights booked, a storm coming in, two strangers with urgent appointments agree to book a small private plane from Idaho to Denver and make their connections. No-nonsense photojournalist ‘Alex’ (Winslet) is due at her wedding in New York City. Neurosurgeon ‘Ben’ (Elba) has emergency surgery to perform in Baltimore. Folksy pilot ‘Walter’ (Beau Bridges) doesn’t file a flight plan. En route, Walter has a stroke, the aircraft goes down onto a ridge about 11,000 feet up; everyone is hurt except Walter’s Labrador Retriever. There’s no-one around. Nobody knows they’re up there.
Bridges aces his seizure scene, and later in the story, ‘Mark’ (Dermot Mulroney), Alex’s fiancé, has brief screen time, but the bulk of the 112 minutes is focused on Alex, Ben and the dog. We learn of Ben’s wife, but he won’t volunteer anything about her to the inquisitive Alex, whose resolute determination to get down the mountain, despite her injuries, spurs the borderline defeatist doctor to go above & beyond. The stars are individually charismatic, but the chemistry between them could stand to thaw, though the script, written by Chris Weitz and J. Mills, is limited in the likelihood department.
Hany Abu-Assad (Paradise Now, Omar) directs it all with a sure touch, and Mandy Walker’s cinematography of the beautiful, rugged (and deeply cold) locations in Alberta and British Columbia commands your attention. All in, while the relationship angle (opposites attract because they have to) doesn’t carry as much weight as intended, the basic setup and action makes for a pretty good addition to the brave-the-elements slate in the adventure genre. Kudos to the actors and crew for earning their pay in alpine winds and minus-30 snowdrifts.
With the public it ranked 79th in ’17, a $62,832,000 gross almost evenly split between domestic and international.