A desperate situation, an unconventional solution, two strangers, solution goes south, strangers learn to depend on each other in order to survive. It’s not a new story but Kate Winslet and Idris Elba make the story worth watching again.
The Mountain Between Us follows Alex (Winslet) and Ben (Elba) as they struggle to survive after a plane crash in the Rockies en route from Boise to Denver. Grounded in Boise due to a storm, Ben, a neurosurgeon who has to operate in the morning in Baltimore, and Alex, a journalist needing to get to New York for her wedding the next day, decide to charter a 2-seater prop plane. To their inquiries about filing a flight plan, Walter (Beau Bridges) the pilot says, “No need. It’s still light out.” Everything changes when Walter suffers a stroke and the plane goes down in the mountains and no one else knows where they are.
Ben is relatively unscathed but Alex’s leg is hurt bad. They wait for rescue, together with dead Walter’s dog, but none comes. (Spoiler altert! They don’t eat the dog.) Ben wants to stay put and Alex wants set out. Alex prevails and as they find their way down the mountain, there are plenty of heart-stopping perils to challenge them. Their greatest challenge, however, is each other.
Ever the journalist, Alex is full of questions for tight-lipped Ben, who doesn’t care to answer her more personal questions. At a point of desperation, Alex tells Ben, “We’re going to die together and I don’t even know you.” They realize that they have learned to trust and depend on each other for their very lives, but they don’t know the real person inside the other.
Sometimes the movie manages to drag a little as limping Alex slogs along behind Ben but that gives the audience time to admire the breathtaking scenery of the film. At one point as they stop to rest, Ben manages to marvel at the beauty of the their surroundings, even though the elements are doing their best to kill them. When Alex remarks about how she’s getting used to the cold, Ben voices his amazement at the human body created by God and how it can adapt to extreme circumstances.
The Mountain Between Us proves to be both literal and metaphorical as Ben is married and Alex is about to be. When they find themselves attracted to each other, the morality of film becomes a bit problematic even though the human emotions of the situation may be understandable.
SPOILER ALERT! I’m going to reveal how the movie ends so if you want to be surprised, stop reading now!
What really impressed me about the film is the way the characters have to process their experience and be honest with themselves in order to be true to their deepest selves.
After barely making it back to civilization, Ben wakes up in the hospital and rushes to Alex, only to come face-to-face with reality in the form of Alex’s fiancé, Mark (Dermot Mulroney). Separately, Alex and Ben struggle to return to their everyday lives. The literal mountain is gone but the metaphorical one still remains. Their experience has changed them forever. Ben returns to his work at a hospital but can no longer perform surgery due to frostbite damage to his hands. Alex goes back into wedding planning mode but something blocks her from really participating, everything seeming to just happen around her.
After numerous attempts by Alex to call Ben, they finally agree to meet. Having realized that they not only depended on each other on the mountain but that their true selves had been revealed to each other, Ben and Alex are more honest with each other than they ever had been. The courage to be honest about their feelings for each other and the trust and dependence they learned through adversity enabled them to move the mountain between them.