Do not go into this expecting a hardcore survival film. There are no grim musings on death (see: The Grey), no one is mauled by a bear (see: The Revenant), and Idris Elba and Kate Winslet don’t eat butts for breakfast (see: Alive). While it does have one hell of an exciting crash sequence, The Mountain Between Us keeps things fluffy for the most part. That may not bode well for survival genre enthusiast, but this film isn’t for you. It’s a love story first and foremost, doing a better job serving that crowd than most Nicholas Sparks bollocks adapted to screen.
Boarding a tiny matchbox aeroplane as complete strangers, photojournalist Alex (Winslet) and neurosurgeon Ben (Elba) can only rely on each other and a dog (who doesn’t die!) when their fallen aircraft leaves them on a snowy death trap. Alex has experience being in dangerous environments while Ben has that precious doctor brain, making them both valuable assets to one another.
With the threat of death, they rely and confide in each other. That’s what the passable script wants you to believe, but it’s something the actors sell. Elba is comforting but guarded, instilling Ben with both a heart and secret sadness that earns his draw. Winslet is more expressive with Alex’s fears and determination, drawing a solid contrast to Ben while making her just as likeable. The script sometimes forces them to go against basic survival instincts for the sake of mood setting, like using a dying phone to play classical music. Fortunately, the actors make a simple rubbing of cold hand feel far more affectionate.
The strength of the leads lends this otherwise by-the-numbers romance some muscle. It’s also refreshing to see a love story centred on two people in their 40s as well as a surprisingly sensible conclusion that avoids artery-clogging cheesiness. Well, except for – quite literally – the final shot.