With its cast of Kate Winslet and Idris Elba, its original non-franchise source material, its adult concerns and utter lack of superheroics, Hany Abu-Assad's The Mountain Between Us stands as the kind of movie that grown-ups I know often say they wish the studios would make -- and then tend not to turn up for. If they do, Abu-Assad's lost-in-the-Rockies survival drama will reward them: Here are breathtaking vistas climbed and trudged through and slid down by breathtaking movie stars. You know, if you've seen the ads, that the theme here is man (and woman and dog) vs. nature, and Abu-Assad wrings welcome suspense right up to the end from the questions that you probably wondered while watching the trailer. My parents have pressed me on them ever since they heard I was reviewing the movie: Will Elba's and Winslet's characters live? Will the dog? Most pressing of all: Is this a romance?
I won't spill it. The film finds strangers Alex (Winslet) and Ben (Elba) crashed on a mountaintop, where they build fire, ration their food, become incidentally intimate in what's left of the plane — tending wounds, helping each other pee — while not quite connecting. They come closer once they attempt to walk back to civilization. Despite some frightening (and effective) scenes of slippery slopes and aggravated wildlife, the film's heart lies in watching these characters discover the will to press on even. Too bad, then, that those characters are so flatly conceived. Neither performer fully alchemizes the collection of traits and lines they've been given into a compelling individual person. But the situation is elemental; the leads don't have to be interesting to move us.