The Mountain Between Us (2017) by Hany Abu-Assad
Such a great trailer. You’ve got two amazing actors, a scenery that stuns you into silence with its beauty, and action, and emotion. It’s a masterpiece. It makes you want to see the movie. It made me want to desperately watch this movie.
The other day, I did. But as happens far too often lately, the movie could not deliver on the promises of the trailer. How does that even happen? I mean, sure, the greatest appeal are the two main actors. Who wouldn’t wanna watch Kate Winslet and Idris Elba read the phone book in their beautiful British accents (sorry, to disappoint but Kate doesn’t use her beautiful Britsh accent in the movie, she plays an American)?
Okay, let’s start with the plot:
Alex Martin and Ben Bass are both trying to leave Idaho but an upcoming storm grounds all commercial flights. Alex suggests they charter a small plane for just the two of them to get to respective pressing engagements – he’s supposed to operate on a child, she’s on the way to her wedding. The plane crashes, the pilot dies and they’re left somewhere high up in the mountains with nobody knowing they’re even missing.
Two strangers who have to rely on each other to make it home or die trying. Not surprisingly, they develop feelings for each other. But are these even real or a result of their ordeal? And does it really matter when their lives are bound to end in the cruel beauty of snow and ice?
It does sound compelling, doesn’t it? And it is, for about half the movie maybe. I mean, it’s not entirely new. Two strangers in an intimate situation, having to rely on each other, saving each other’s lives… we’ve seen this. We’ve probably also seen this happening on a mountain, but has it ever been done this… sappy?
I’m sorry. I still want to like the movie, even though I didn’t. There are just so many things I violently resist that happen in the movie… and it’s entirely possible that this is more of me-problem.
What really irks me are all the Hollywood cliches and how predictable it all is. We have a male doctor, a female journalist. He’s barely got a scratch after the crash, she’s banged up with a gash on her leg, so he’s got to take care of her. Well, thank goodness he’s a doctor… and there the eye rolls start. And you can’t stop them once they started. The film exists in this heteronormative bubble where a man and a woman must meet, must overcome a hardship, shag, and then fight that little extra mile for their love… the music swells, they run toward each other and they hug, they kiss, it’s so romantic.
Only, it’s not because I’ve seen this a gazillion times and am not moved by it anymore. That’s probably a me-problem, unless anybody else felt that the romantic part of the story was entirely overdone. What the trailer made me believe was that there were two people in a peril and they had to rely on each other to overcome it. While the trailer does not even hint at the possibility of a romance, I guess, we all expected it. Let’s be honest, considering who played the leads it would’ve been a fucking waste not to have them shag. But since the trailer did not even hint at the romance, it also didn’t reveal that the romance was the raison d’etre of the entire film.
Let me explain this differently. Titanic is a disaster film, but it’s also a romance. Still, you never feel like all those people had to die only for Rose and Jack to find love. Their love story happened despite the sinking of the ship. With The Mountain Between Us, it feels like the crash had to happen in order for these two people to come together. Beau Bridges had to die so that Ben would get over his wife’s death, so that he could save Alex. They had to crash so that Alex wouldn’t marry this weird-looking guy played by Dermot Mulroney, ’cause he’s obviously not man enough for her or something.
I’m interpreting, but the movie seems to build a lot on outdated concepts of masculinity. And it made me uncomfortable. And it made me mad and disappointed. Because I so wanted to love this movie. It’s visually stunning, it’s beautifully acted, you want to like Alex and Ben, you want to cheer for them, but somehow the emotional bond did not resonate with me. It did in the beginning with the forced intimacy, but as they ‘fell in love’ the movie stopped being about anything else. In the end, love overcame the mountain, not these two resourceful, capable individuals.