Susan Granger’s review of “The Mountain Between Us” (Fox 2000: 20th Century-Fox)
Despite Idris Elba’s charismatic presence, this melodramatic survival story struggles to achieve a steady pace and tone, as the characters played by Elba and Kate Winslet fight to remain alive in the wilderness.
When their paths cross in the airport after their flight to Denver is cancelled because of an impending storm, Alex Martin (Winslet) and Ben Bass (Elba) are desperate. She’s a photojournalist, frantic to get home for her scheduled wedding, while he’s a British neurosurgeon, determined not to miss urgent surgery on an ailing child.
Impulsive Alex suggests chartering a small plane and cautious Ben, somewhat hesitantly, agrees. But soon after they’re airborne, the folksy pilot Walter (Beau Bridges) suffers a fatal stroke and the plane smashes into a snowy ridge in the High Uintas Wilderness, part of the Rockies in northern Utah.
Since no one ever filed a flight plan, they’re left to their own devices, along with Walter’s (unnamed) golden Labrador. Alex’s leg is obviously broken, but Ben sets it so adroitly that she’s able to hobble with an improvised cane.
Realizing there’s no cell phone service, few supplies and subzero temperatures, Alex recites the Rule of Three: “People can survive three days without water, three hours without shelter and three minutes without air.”
Which leads to the crucial question: Should they stay within the confines of the shattered plane, trusting to be spotted by a search party, or trek down the slippery slopes with their canine companion, hoping to find help?
Adapted by Chris Weitz and J. Mills Goodloe from Charles Martin’s 2010 romance-novel, it’s helmed at a leisurely pace by Dutch/Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad (“Paradise Now,” “Omar”), leaving plenty of time for Alex and Ben to bicker and bond, igniting an utterly predictable romance, while cinematographer Mandy Walker supplies breathtaking, vertiginous vistas, shot in British Columbia
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Mountain Between Us” is a slogging 6 – with a sappy ending.