Movie Review: Kate and Idris Can’t Overcome “The Mountain Between Us”

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Two well-heeled strangers, trapped in Idaho before a blizzard hits, charter a plane to Denver. It goes down in the Rocky Mountain wilderness and they’re forced to depend on each other, blend clashing personalities, to survive.

That’s the premise of “The Mountain Between Us.”

Now, take a moment to imagine the dramatic possibilities. See the potential sore spots for friction, and guess the obstacles, the action beats a “lost in in the mountains in winter” romantic thriller.

Then throw out any of your best ideas for friction and pat yourself on the back for every hoary survival film cliche and coincidence you can think of, because that’s what this movie, based on a Charles Martin novel, throws at us.

It’s an interminable movie that as our thrown-together couple face injury, cold, frostbite, sliding off a cliff, mountain lions and yes — a frozen lake (Craaaaaack) and bear-traps (SNAP) — and find time to um, bond, inspires “Oh just get ON with it” shouting at the screen.

Yes, it’s “The English Patient in Winter.”

Oscar winner Kate Winslet and Oscar bait Idris Elba are the two stranded travelers. She’s a freelance photographer about to miss her wedding. He’s a neurosurgeon with a young patient depending on him back East.

The skies may be clear, but there’s a blizzard bearing down on Boise. The airlines aren’t flying, but ol’ Walter (Beau Bridges) can get them out. “Flew F-5s in Vi–ET Nam,” he drawls. “Log as nobody’s shootin’ at me, I’m home free.”

Famous not-quite-last-words. Before you can say “Alive!”, they’ve plowed into a mountain with no flight plan filed, nobody knowing they left much less where they went. All the antsy Alex (busted foot) and Dr. Ben have is each other, and Walter’s yellow lab.

The sudsy set-up is that we root for them — to survive and connect — and fear for the dog. As the story was adapted by J. Mills Goodloe, who gave us “Everything, Everything” and “The Best of Me,” we know there’ll be plenty of sap in this corner of the Rockies.

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The dynamic of pitching two willful, smart cookies into this situation pays almost no dividends, even though they’re each out of their element. He’s a man of discipline, science and a “system,” which will spring into action now that they’re missing. She’s quick to grasp the worst case scenario.

“Systems fail.”

He’s careful, tentative. She’s “reckless.”

It’ll never work out. Until, as they (at her insistence) start trekking out, their hikes peppered with intimately confessional conversations to take their minds off the starvation they might face and the dog they might lose.

Exhaustion, hunger and desperation never figure into the story or the performances. Whatever Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad brought to his breakout film, “Paradise Now,” he’s way out of his element here. The scenery is stunning, but not breathtaking enough to hide the fact that reality rarely intrudes into each head-slapping coincidence or, for that matter, the make-up trailer.

Both players make the best of things, rarely letting on that they know this is a Nicholas Sparks beach novel without the beach. Whatever drew Winslet to it, “Mountain” makes you wonder if the supposed hot-ticket Elba (“The Dark Tower”) will ever get a mainstream film that justifies his stardom.

Or if what he really needs is to change agents.

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MPAA Rating: PG-13 for a scene of sexuality, peril, injury images, and brief strong language

Cast: Kate Winslet, Idris Elba, Beau Bridges

Credits : Directed by Hany Abu-Assad script by J. Mills Goodloe, based on the Charles Martin novel. A 20th Century Fox release.

Running time: 1:44

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