By Jack Dignan
The dog in this movie deserved so much better. Not because of any potential spoilers about whether or not he lives, I wouldn't dare do that, but simply because he is truly a one of a kind dog. Played by duel-doggo's Austin and Raleigh, this is a character that truly captured the essence of this movie. And he also captured my heart. Not only does the dog perform a number of impressive feats throughout, often saving the lives of our protagonists, but also he receives a far more interesting character arc than anybody else in the film. He was a good dog. Or dogs, so the credits go. A dog that deserves a spot in Hollywood amongst the greats, and certainly deserves a much better film.
The Mountain Between Us is bad. It is. But it didn't have to be. The premise, while unoriginal and painstakingly done to death, could've led to an at least mildly interesting film. Survival stories are common. Good survival stories... less so, but the genre isn't dead yet. Just look at 127 Hours. Granted, it's been seven years since that film's release, but it remains invigorating. It take a premise even simpler than this; a man stuck in the middle of nowhere with his hand trapped underneath a rock, and it elevates it into cinematic beauty, so much so that the Academy recognised it and justifiably nominated it for several Oscars, including Best Picture. Even with their simple premises, life remains in the genre. It's just not very apparent here.
We follow the story of duel protagonists Ben Bass (Idris Elba) and Alex Martin (Kate Winslet). Through chance, they both find themselves in the exact same situation. They desperately need to travel overseas by tomorrow morning, yet the flight they were booked for has been cancelled. So, improvising through dire needs, they book a private jet plane… except here is where problems arrive. The pilot doesn't use a flight plan, and while travelling over the middle of nowhere, they crash, rudely interrupting Idris Elba's game of Candy Crush (that actually happens, and based on his hand gestures, I don't think he actually knows how to play). Ben and Alex find themselves lost and alone in the middle of nowhere, forced to fight to survive the harsh winter conditions of the snowy mountains.
Except, there's a twist. This isn't a survival story. This is a love story. I'll pause and wait while you get your groans out of the way. Yes, this is a survival romance movie, in which someone who spends the entire first half of the movie complaining about how they've missed their wedding winds up falling in love with this total stranger who, quite frankly, didn't come across as all that friendly. The film's survival elements are exhausting, and not in a good way. They're bland, lacking suspense and incredibly predictable, but at least there's glimmers of excitement. A scene with cougars requires you to suspect your disbelief drastically, but it remains fun and thrilling. Screenwriters Chris Weitz and J. Mills Goodloe actually had their heads in the game. It's the romantic elements that ruin this film.
I guess this should've been expected when you bring together the guy who wrote Rogue One and the guy who wrote The Best of Me. It's a strange combination of genres that doesn't mash well and leads an abomination of an ending. It kept going and going, to the point where it seemed as though the film was just trying to out-do its previous ending. Yet every time I groaned louder and louder and louder. It's not that Elba and Winslet don't have great chemistry, they do, it's more so the dialogue they're given and story they're thrown in. Not only is it predictable and full of conveniences (one of which was used solely as an excuse to have them have sex), it's just so bland.
Elba plays it very straight, but controlling, almost to the point where he comes off as somewhat of a dick. Then, on the other hand, Winslet's character is so poorly written and underdeveloped that she was unable to connect with and completely shallow through and through. Perhaps this isn't the screenwriter's faults, they've both done great work before, but instead that of the book's author. Still, when adapting it to film, adding in further characterization goes a long way. Maybe the book's great, I haven't read it, but if this is any indication then it doesn't seem suited for a big screen adaptation. The editing is choppy and unaware of time, and while some shots do impress (a tracking shot in a plane in particular), nothing about this film blew me away in the slightest.
Both Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey have re-released their original novels from the perspective of the male, as opposed to the female. While this is simply because the writers have absolutely no creativity in their entire body, it does raise the question of.... why not do it again here? Why not re-release this film from the dog's perspective? It's the film we're dying to see, and one that'll make this film just as good as it thinks it is.
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