The Bock’s Office: Survival, romance don’t mix in ‘The Mountain Between Us’
You’ve just been through a traumatic event, your resources are minimal and your life could end at any minute. The real worry — how soon until you can make a move on the other person in this scenario?
According to “The Mountain Between Us,” you don’t have to wait too long …
Though they’ve just met, Ben Bass and Alex Martin (Idris Elba, Kate Winslet) have one important thing in common — they need to get on a plane immediately.
The two are each stranded at an airport in Boise, Idaho, thanks to poor weather grounding all outgoing flights, which does not suit them, since Ben needs to be in Baltimore to perform a surgical procedure, while Alex is due in New York City for her wedding.
Turning to a private airfield, the pair hire a willing pilot (Beau Bridges) to get them as far as Denver and on to their next destinations.
Plans change drastically when their pilot suffers a stroke that results in them crashing on a Rocky Mountain peak, killing the pilot and injuring his passengers.
Ben and Alex are quickly at odds about what to do in their situation. Ben believes the rational thing is to stay put and wait for help, while Alex maintains the sooner they make their way down the mountain, the better.
Eventually, they are faced with no choice but to strike out into the wilderness, two strangers dependent upon each other against the elements, wildlife and their increasingly poor odds of survival.
Kindred spirits they ain’t, but Elba and Winslet play off each other well as two people who couldn’t be more mismatched.
Whereas Ben is an introverted, logical neurosurgeon whose only vice is an addiction to the mobile game “Candy Crush,” Alex is a free-speaking free spirit with a passion for photojournalism and searching out war-torn areas, much to the chagrin of her awaiting fiancé.
In case you didn’t make the connection that the pairing of the two is a case of head versus heart, Ben makes the point by articulating it shortly into their excursion, all the while arguing that the brain is superior to the heart, which is “just a muscle.”
And, in case you’re wondering why they shouldn’t expect a search party, their departed pilot didn’t file a flight plan, his second mistake after flying alongside the world’s least friendly golden lab as his co-pilot, though the cantankerous canine proves more useful than not to Ben and Alex as they make their way down snowy, treacherous terrain.
Canadian filming locations serve finely for a spot that’s never defined by name — according to Charles Martin’s novel, that serves as the basis; it’s the Uinta Mountain range — but it’s the people involved who are the focus, moving quickly past polite disagreements to full-on blaming of each other for their predicament.
Despite some bickering, both are smart enough to know the rule of three — you can survive three weeks without food, three days without water, three hours in extreme weather and three minutes without air. Perhaps don’t waste that time on petty things?
The heated exchanges feel real, as do their struggles against nature, but it’s when they start to bond that things turn inauthentic.
Maybe anyone who’s stuck with a total stranger in a perilous situation would have some window where they move past the point of merely not wanting the other to die and developing into something more, yet in Ben and Alex’s case, it doesn’t develop organically. It’s hardly the fault of the actors, who have some respectable chemistry, but it’s not the most believable idea that two people are going to suddenly come together emotionally based on little more than proximity.
Why not save some of that energy for the long walk?
If you want a tale of survival, “The Mountain Between Us” might do the trick, but if you want a plausible love story, it will likely leave you cold.
Better to just hold out hope that Tom Hanks is reunited with Wilson for a sequel to “Cast Away.”
Stories enrich our lives. We tell them, listen to them, read them, repeat them, write them, watch them on TV, enjoy them in theaters. Stories teach us, entertain us, make us laugh, ease our social situations, and cement our friendships.