The Mountain Between Us

 

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Idris Elba and Kate Winslet find themselves stranded on a mountain in Utah in this moving 

and compelling survival drama.

 

Mountain Between Us, The

 

If you’re going to have a man and a woman stuck up a mountain, you could do a lot worse than Idris Elba and Kate Winslet. Both actors exude a grounded integrity that is relentlessly watchable. I’d be just as happy to look at Idris and Kate stranded on a deserted island or trapped together in an underground bunker. They just radiate class.

 

Here, Idris plays Ben Bass, an English neurosurgeon who is due to perform a life-saving operation on a ten-year-old boy the next day. Kate is Alex Martin, an American photojournalist working for The Guardian who needs to get to New York for her own wedding. However, when an approaching storm front necessitates the cancellation of all outgoing flights from Salt Lake City, they decide to hire a private plane to make their connection. Inevitably, the worst-case scenario materializes and the doctor and the journalist find themselves stranded on top of the world in Utah, in the middle of the snow-capped High Uintas Wilderness.

 

There is more than the mountain (and the extreme cold) to overcome, however, as Ben and Alex are divided by race, nationality, gender and temperament. Nevertheless, they do share a basic human decency and a desire to survive. Ben wants to stay and wait for help, while Alex – in spite of a broken leg – wants to take the more treacherous alternative of attempting to walk out alive. Neither option seems remotely hopeful, but the scenery is stunning.

 

The great strength of this hugely moving and gripping survival drama is the stillness of the central performances. They are a perfect match for the implacable, unblinking vastness of their domain. Incidents do occur – at one point Alex is cornered by a mountain lion – but it’s the subtle rhythms between the two actors that is so compelling. Ben and Alex know nothing about each other, yet gradually evolve an intimate shorthand that is heart-breaking. In the jaws of the unimaginable, they still retain what it is to be human.

 

Virtually unable to move, and in considerable pain, Alex asks Ben, “would you help me pee?” To which he replies, “I thought you’d never ask.” And as the layers of these characters are peeled away, and as their plight becomes increasingly futile, so we invest in them emotionally. Of course, there are concessions to a mainstream audience – the film is based on Charles Martin’s page-turner of the same name – but in the hands of the Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad, the drama is also permitted its nuances. Abu-Assad is still best known for his riveting and incendiary terrorist thriller Paradise Now (2005) and for Omar (2013), both of which were nominated for Oscars. And with his first mainstream Hollywood film he doesn’t disappoint.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Kate Winslet, Idris Elba, Beau Bridges.

 

Dir Hany Abu-Assad, Pro Peter Chernin, Dylan Clark, David Ready and Jenno Topping, Screenplay Chris Weitz and J. Mills Goodloe, based on the novel by Charles Martin, Ph Mandy Walker, Pro Des Patrice Vermette, Ed Lee Percy, Music Ramin Djawadi, Costumes Renee Ehrlich Kalfus.

 

Chernin Entertainment/Fox 2000 Pictures-20th Century Fox.

111 mins. USA. 2017. Rel: 6 October 2017. Cert. 12A.