“The Mountain Between Us”


            Have you ever found yourself at the airport with a cancelled flight and a very urgent need to get somewhere fast?  The rental cars are already gone.  The bus won't get you there fast enough. What's the last option?  A private charter plane?

            Well, if you can afford it, and if you can find someone who will fly you out immediately.  That's what happened to Alex Martin (Kate Winslet), who was in a big hurry to get to her own wedding the next morning.  She also overheard a physician, Ben Bass (Idris Elba) say he needed to be back for scheduled surgery, so she asked if he wanted to come in the charter plane, as well.  The pilot (Beau Bridges) assures them both that he has loads of experience, and sure, he can outrun that storm.

            Except he can't.  And then he suffers a stroke.  The resulting plane crash should have killed them all, but didn't.  The pilot is dead, and Alex has yet to regain consciousness, but Ben somehow managed only a few cuts and bruises.  So he fashions a makeshift splint for her injured leg, and waits for help to come, and tries to stay warm in the icy expanse of rugged mountainous terrain. He's not going to make his surgery schedule.  And she's not going to make her own wedding, either.  In fact, right now it's looking bleak about either one of them getting out alive.  Nobody knows where they are.  And help is not on the way.

            The good news is that she wakes up.  The bad news is that she's hobbled by her leg injury, yet still feels she has to get out of that plane wreckage and try to find some help.  He thinks that would reduce their chances of survival.  So she just waits until he's asleep and drags herself outside, anyway.  Which leaves him little choice.  He follows her snow tracks until he catches up with her, and then they set out together to try to find any vestige of civilization.

            Along the way, they learn to rely on each other, even though they still don't really know one another.  He keeps his emotions close and his secrets even closer.  She's not able to sustain long conversations, anyway.  They find shelter in a cave, and in a tree, and finally in an abandoned mountain cabin, which is where their newfound emotional attachment to each other finds some physical expression.  They have to survive the cold and exposure, but also the lack of plentiful food.   They also have to struggle with their growing discouragement, and that nagging realization that the odds of their ever getting out of there diminish with each passing day.

            Idris Elba and Kate Winslet, though neither was apparently first choice in the casting, develop a strong chemistry on the screen.  Both are talented enough to keep the viewer's interest even though there is little variety of interaction.  Just these two people battling the elements, and then their own unexpected attraction.  It's an intense movie experience that feels believable enough to make you feel cold throughout, regardless of the temperature inside the theater.


Questions for Discussion:

1)                  Have you ever bonded with someone after a considerable amount of time shared in close proximity?

2)                  Have you ever had to survive on your own in the outdoors?  For how long?

3)                  Have you ever been lost and on foot?  How long did it take you to panic?


Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association