Based on the book by Charles Martin and starring Academy Award™/Golden Globes® winner Kate Winslet & Golden Globe® winner Idris Elba, this movie is a must-see survival drama during which “you’ll be on the edge of your seat” (Andrew Freund, DishNation). Stranded after a tragic plane crash, two strangers must forge a connection to survive the extreme elements of a remote snow-covered mountain. When they realize help is not coming, they embark on a perilous journey across hundreds of miles of wilderness, pushing one another to endure and discovering strength they never knew possible.
A good survival movie provides the natural setting for a terrific human drama adventure where a character departs the comfort of their everyday life and lands in an extreme situation requiring ingenuity and fortitude. Generally speaking, it's tough to screw up a survival movie, but occasionally a rough one makes it to screens. While The Mountain Between Us offers up the perfect scenario for a grand survival epic, this film doesn't reach peak potential.
Photojournalist Alex Martin (Kate Winslet) just finished an assignment and is racing to Denver, Colorado to make it to her wedding to her fiancé Mark (Dermot Mulroney) on time. Ben Bass is a neurosurgeon who needs to catch a flight to Boston to perform an emergency surgery on a small boy. The only problem is the airlines are packed, and a violent snowstorm is on the horizon grounding all commercial air traffic. Alex charters a plane from seasoned pilot Walter (Beau Bridges) and convinces Ben to come along. When Walter suffers a sudden stroke and crashes the plane, Ben, Alex, and Walter's dog become stranded in the middle of nowhere without any way to call for help. Together, they will have to rely on their basic instincts, intelligence, and each other if they hope to get off the top of the mountain alive.
Based on the book by Charles Martin and directed by Hany Abu-Assad feating two top-tier stars Idris Elba and Kate Winslet, The Mountain Between Us is essentially a Nicholas Sparks romance novel wrapped up in a wannabe survival story. While everything starts out well and good, and the plane crash is a pretty impressive sequence, the rest of the film fails to live up to potential considering the raw natural talent in front and behind the camera. While not a complete waste of time (I was entertained), it's also not a film that hinges on any shred of believability as it wastes the potential for genuine human drama on cliched romance and unintentional hilarity. You know from the outset these characters are going to hook up, the survival scenarios merely serve to delay the inevitable.
The biggest problem striking down The Mountain Between Us hinges on an immense amount of improbable stupidity. Hear me out. Alex is a seasoned photojournalist who has covered everything from Neo-nazi rallies to war zones. She's a smart person. Ben is a brain surgeon, so you know, not someone akin to lapses in intelligence. Walter is a seasoned pilot. He survived Viet Nam and has decades of flight experience, so he's not a complete idiot. However, these three converge to form a stupidity vortex of an unimaginable scale. Together they get on a rickety airplane that saw its best days 20 years ago, fly off into the direction of a massive winter storm over the mountains - without filing a flight plan - and not tell anyone they know and love that was what they were doing. I would hope that no matter how seriously someone was needed to perform a life-saving surgery or eager to get married or in need of a quick buck that no one in their right mind would be that stupid in real life. But without that level of sheer and complete stupidity at play, we wouldn't have this movie.
That problem alone isn't this film's only failing. When you have a cast featuring dynamic actors like Idris Elba and Kate Winslet, it's a shame when the material doesn't make use of them. Elba is commanding as ever, but Winslet is a nonstarter. And that isn't her fault; it's baked into the material. Ben is the only character with an arc, the only character who the audience actually gets to see grow and change by the end of the film. Alex is more or less just a version of herself from start to finish. Winslet is a fantastic actress with numerous accolades to her credit, but the movie saddles her with a character that is routinely unconscious for long stretches. Topping that off, there's never any sense of peril. Sequences that should be either thrilling, suspenseful, or dramatic are, instead, pieced together in such a way that there is never any doubt of survival. Even when a CGI cougar attacks a disabled Winslet inside the crashed airplane, you know she's going to find a way out conveniently. If ever there was a survival film that needed a pack of wolves, a man-eating bear, or even a cannibalistic soccer team - The Mountain Between Us is it.
Why I have to admit to being entertained by The Mountain Between Us merely stems from the film's unintentional hilarity. It's trying so hard to be dramatic and profoundly romantic that it forgets it has nothing to say or do. It's a beautiful looking film for sure, but there's nothing more to it than pretty visuals with handsome actors always looking their best. I'll give all credit in the world to the cast and director Hany Abu-Assad for having the gumption to shoot on location in the middle of winter and not fake it. It's an impressive undertaking, but the story material doesn't support the effort. The whole venture quickly becomes funny to watch. My wife and I aren't cinema snobs and love a good melodrama. We watched this together not expecting much from it, but we couldn't help ourselves as we both indulged in fits of laughter. So to that end, if there's a reason to watch this movie, it's to have a good laugh the same way that you would queue up The Room. You can't take it seriously, so just go with the flow and have fun with it.
I don't like thrashing movies; I understand how difficult it is to make a feature, put that time and energy into it and bare a piece of your creative soul. I get it. I've gone through that personal creative hell a few times only to fail, and it's crushing. But, really, truly, it's difficult to take The Mountain Between Us seriously. It's a romance novel that got out of hand and became a moderately budgeted film with impressive star talent that deserved better material.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
The Mountain Between Us arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of 20th Century Fox in a two-disc Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD set. The Pressed onto a Region A BD-50 disc, the Blu-ray and DVD are housed in a 2-Disc eco-friendly Blu-ray case with identical slip cover artwork. The Blu-ray loads to a trailer for The Greatest Showman before arriving at an animated main menu with traditional navigation options.
The Mountain Between Us arrives with a gorgeous 2.39:1 1080p transfer sourced from a 2.4K DI. The film looks its best in the numerous outdoor location scenes in the Canadian Rockies. There is a scenic beauty to the imagery that makes it look like it belongs in a high-end nature documentary. You can tell there wasn't any digital trickery faking the location. You can tell when the smattering of digital backdrop stuff crops in because it's nowhere near as realistic looking. Details are fantastic allowing you to soak in an appreciate fine lines, clothing details, and facial features. Colors are also well balanced with natural hues coming through beautifully. Primaries, especially the bright blue sky look terrific. Considering all of the snow, contrast is also very well balanced without any hot white blooms. Black levels are also in good shape, giving the image a striking sense of depth and dimension. My only gripe is the film features a bit of noise in during night scenes lit with fake orange firelight. There's a haziness to these scenes that pulls back details and flattens the image. Late in the film when they discover a cabin exhibits some crushed blacks that also knock the score back a bit.
The Mountain Between Us arrives with a sold English DTS-HD MA 7.1 audio mix. Dialogue is well balanced and never an issue to hear. Sound effects are lively and ensure that the channels get plenty of activity. Ramin Djawadi's score is a well-layered, excellent accompaniment to the mix. The standout of this mix is the imaging. With a constant swirl of wind or the sound of deep snow crunching under the characters feet, there is a richly immersive quality. Considering they did shoot on location, you feel that sense of isolation and distance with every sound. However, the channels aren't always active in the most obvious ways. There are long stretches where it actually feels more front/center with only slight bursts of side and rear activity. Aside from the terrific plane crash sequence, this is a naturally quiet film and the mix really relies on the subtleties rather than pushing the audio in unnatural action-packed ways. It could have been a bit more dynamic, sure, but as it is, it works.
For a movie that took such a critical and box office beating, Fox has actually assembled a fine selection of bonus features for this The Mountain Between Us. The audio commentary offers up some insight into the film and the production featurettes may be a bit on the EPK side of things but they do offer up some decent material that's worth watching.
Audio Commentary featuring director Hany Abu-Assad
Love and Creating Chemistry (HD 12:42) This is a typical talking head behind the scenes look how the film came together with brief cast and crew interviews.
Mountain Between Them: Shooting in Isolation (HD 10:17) This is more EPK material, but it's actually interesting to see how they were able to shoot on location. It may not be a great film but you gotta hand it to them for going the distance by shooting under these conditions.
The Wilds: Survival Stunts (HD 5:47) A quick look at the stunt work for the film,
Deleted Scenes (HD 14:15) I usually don't mind when scenes are left on the cutting room floor, they're usually gone for a good reason, but here, some of the material would have been better suited for the film, especially in the scenes following Winslet's character falling into icy water, instead of a lot of the forced romantics.
Gallery (HD 2:03)
Theatrical Trailer (HD 2:14)
The Mountain Between Us earnestly tries to create a romantic survival drama but instead creates what amounts to, in my eyes, an unintentional comedy. It's an over-budgeted Lifetime movie with a cast better than it deserves to tell a story where there are no illusions about the possible outcome of the extreme situation the characters find themselves. If that's your kind of flick, I can see it satisfying your needs. However, if you're up for a laugh, I can see some folks enjoying this one ironically. Either way, you can expect a solid Blu-ray release effort from 20th Century Fox. The A/V presentation is pretty damn great with beautiful visuals and an effective audio mix. The bonus features package is no slouch either and there is some worthwhile content to dig through here. At the end of the day, I've got to suggest you rent this one. Unless you're a huge fan, you're going to want to try before you blind buy.