Most of us, in the lives we've chosen to lead, are highly unlikely to find ourselves stranded on a mountaintop with Idris Elba. This is something with which we must all, in our own individual ways, find peace. But, for those still holding on to the dream, here comes "The Mountain Between Us," a Harlequin-worthy romantic fantasy masquerading as an outdoor-adventure film -- and an example of a very silly movie almost transformed by the skill of the two actors at its center.
Photojournalist Alex (Kate Winslet) and neurosurgeon Ben (Elba) are strangers at an Idaho airport as the movie begins; however, faster than you can say "Umm, what?," their flights are canceled and they're buckling up in a private chartered plane, flown by a folksy fellow (Beau Bridges) with an ominous cough and a casual attitude toward filing flight plans. (Why are they in such a hurry? Alex is getting married the next day -- yes, I know -- and Ben has Important Surgery in the morning.) And, just like that -- crash! The pilot's dead (but his cute dog isn't), and Ben and Alex are stranded on a snowy mountain, with little food, no cell reception and no one knowing their whereabouts.
This is all more than a little contrived (really? a dog?), but this is just the first few minutes; "The Mountain Between Us" has much more in store. Let me just say that superheroes have nothing on Ben, who not only is a neurosurgeon who looks like Idris Elba but who knows how to build fires, find cutely romantic caves and cozy abandoned cabins, rig up makeshift IVs in medical emergencies, perform thrilling rescue missions and maintain impeccable grooming despite several weeks without a shower. And Alex? Well, she talks a lot (somebody needs to; he's the strong/silent/brooding type). The dog is just a dog.
In the hands of lesser actors I shudder to think of what a slog "The Mountain Between Us" might be, with its endless catastrophes and near-deaths and melodramatic declarations. But Winslet -- who gets her own superhero moment near the end -- and Elba are so likable and charismatic together, they just about sell it. You want them to be together; you want them to get off that mountain and go live happily ever after already, after which Ben develops a second career as an extremely good-looking mountain-rescue expert. Fantasy, after all, gets to make its own rules.
'THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US'
2.5 out of 4 stars
Cast: Kate Winslet, Idris Elba, Dermot Mulroney, Beau Bridges.
Directed by Hany Abu-Assad, from a screenplay by Chris Weitz and J. Mills Goodloe, based on the novel by Charles Martin.
Rated PG-13 for a scene of sexuality, peril, injury images and brief strong language.
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