Idris Elba and Kate Winslet sell snowy silliness with sheer magnetism. Daftly romantic.
Anyone familiar with the dimensions of a door and how many humans can fit on one has good cause to regard Kate Winslet suspiciously in any cinematic survival scenario. It’s with this information in hand that Idris Elba, co-starring in Omar director Hany Abu-Assad’s big screen adaptation of Charles Martin’s best-selling snowbound disaster romance The Mountain Between Us should be very, very worried.
He plays a somewhat gruff British doctor, Ben, trying to get a flight out of storm lock-down Salt Lake City in order to perform brain surgery on a young boy the next day. Winslet is photojournalist Alex, also desperate to get outta town to make her own wedding. It’s she who hits on the foolhardy idea of engaging local pilot Walter (Beau Bridges) to outrace the blasted weather, golden Labrador in tow, because disaster movies need a dog, hey?
That things go horribly awry will surprise no one, and the subsequent viscerally thrilling crash sequence is spectacularly captured in one take by Hidden Figures cinematographer Mandy Walker. She also does a glorious job of illuminating the hopelessness of their chances so lost in remote snowy mountains.
As with the Titanic imbroglio, logic goes out the window. The screenplay by Chris Weitz and J. Mills Goodloe starts pretty amusingly as Ben’s clearly been mainlining Man vs Wild. Going the full Bear Grylls, he ingeniously crafts a leg cast for Alex and a gas-fuelled stove from bits of plane. Seemingly impervious to the cold and or any other mortal danger, even his beard gets nowhere near the full hipster in weeks without a bathroom.
As much as Winslet imbues Alex with fighting spirit and little patience for Ben’s moody silences and belligerent insistence on staying near the wreck, hoping to be saved by a search party, she does get saddled with the traditional damsel in distress stuff.
I’m not overly surprised that the film has been roundly mauled in certain corners. It’s probably entirely fair. But here’s the thing, for all its daftness, Elba and Winslet are magnificent actors who share an undeniable chemistry as Ben and Alex at first butt heads but are inexorably drawn to one another. There’s nothing overly original here, with Abu-Assad’s Omar a far more nuanced film, and yet the romantic pull, the glorious scenery and the predictable but nonetheless fretful scenarios they find themselves in – hunted by wild animals, plunged into icy depths, desperately short of food and warmth – had me hooked.
Suspend disbelief. Bring your love of both leads. Sure, have a chortle at the one step too far snowy survival credibility, and hell you might, like me, find yourself swept away with the silly, snowy romance of it all.
Stephen A Russell @SARussellwords