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Movie Review

As a general rule, you should never, ever, under any circumstance crawl into a small plane if you're a character in a movie.

Alex and Ben didn't get the memo.

Professional photographer Alex Martin and neurosurgeon Ben Bass find themselves stranded in Salt Lake City after their flight to Denver is canceled due to an incoming winter storm. Both desperately need to reach their respective destinations. Alex is getting married the next day in Denver. And Ben has a life-or-death brain surgery to perform on a 10-year-old boy. Both are equally irate when their flight's passenger service agent informs them all other flights have been canceled, too.

A phone call later, Alex asks Ben, whom she's never met, to come with her. Minutes later they wander into a hanger with a small plane and a pilot who's willing to fly them to Denver.

He's an old-school kind of guy. A fly-by-sight, no-need-to-file-a-flight-plan kind of guy. Kinda like, say, crop dusting.

For that matter, he's also just old, too.

Walter's pleasantly chatting up his customers when he suffers a stroke as they soar over mountains that look as if no human being has ever set foot on them. The stroke doesn't kill him. But the crash atop a lonely, snow-covered mountain peak soon does.

Apart from some facial abrasions and a cut on his abdomen, Ben's none the worse for wear. Alex, however, has a bloody gash on one of her legs. She doesn't wake up for 36 hours, during which the good doctor tends to her injuries.

But when she does awaken, she and Ben have a decision to make: to stay put and wait for a rescue, or to strike out into the wintry wilderness in the hope that they can make their way to some outpost of civilization.

Cerebral, control-focused Ben believes their best chance of survival hinges upon staying put. Alex, however, is a woman guided by instinct and intuition. Neither of those discernment organs are telling her to stick around. "Look, I don't want to die up here because you're too scared to take a risk," she says. "I don't want to die because you're reckless and selfish," he retorts.

And that's just the first dilemma—but by no means the last—they'll have to solve if they're going to escape a cold, permanent fate on the mountain.

Positive Elements

The Mountain Between Us generates much of its dramatic tension not only from the desperate circumstances Ben and Alex unwittingly find themselves in, but from their different problem-solving strategies. Ben is cautions, calculating, conservative. Alex? She's an emotional, gut-level decision maker. Each passionately tries to convince the other of the merits of their respective plans. Neither is fully convinced.

Eventually they go. And as their cold days in the wilderness stretch into weeks, they slowly begin to see the merit in the other person's way of approaching the situation. Ben and Alex don't relate very well at first. But as they repeatedly risk their lives for each other and face the grim prospect of starving and/or freezing to death, they develop a deep bond. (More on that in Sexual Content.) They take turns mutually encouraging each other when one or the other is struggling emotionally.

Ben harbors hard secrets that Alex tries diligently to get him to talk about. Eventually he confides that he's experienced a tragedy that he couldn't control. Ben's determination to maintain control is shown to be both his greatest asset and his greatest personal liability. Similarly, Alex's headstrong, emotional nature is also shown to be a character trait that has advantages and disadvantages in certain situations.

Spiritual Content

As Ben buries Walter in a snowy grave, he says, "God bless you." He also says, "God knows," "thank God," and "thank God you're back" (the latter after Alex loses consciousness after a crisis). Later in the film, he talks about how our bodies respond to intense physical traumas, saying, "It's quite ingenious what God did. Your body figures it out."

Sexual Content

Early on, Alex makes a joke about Ben looking up her skirt as he tends to her wounded leg. They lie down next to each other to sleep in order to stay warm.

Late in the film, Ben and Alex discover a dilapidated and long-abandoned cabin where they hole up for a time. In an emotional moment, they kiss. Then more. The ensuing, steamy scene pictures clothes removed and bodies mingled. Nudity is strategically avoided. But movements, groping and sounds are heard in a sex scene that is nevertheless surprisingly explicit for a PG-13 film. Afterward, he's shown shirtless, and she's wearing a nearly see-through shirt without a bra.

[Spoiler Warning] After Alex and Ben successfully make it out of the wilderness alive, she calls off her wedding and the entire relationship with her fiancé, Mark. She eventually finds Ben (who, being British, is back in London) and confides that their experience together ultimately changed her too much for her to stay with Mark. A separate scene pictures him showering. (We see his upper torso.) Near the film's end, Alex and Ben kiss passionately again.

Violent Content

The plane crash is pretty much a standard-issue movie plane crash: violent, jarring, lots of stuff flying around. It knocks everyone out. (Permanently, in Walter's case.) When Ben and Alex finally awaken, they find that Alex's leg is badly injured. (Her face is pretty beaten up too, for that matter.) We never really see the leg wound up close, but it's implied that it's a bad one. Ben splints it, and Alex uses a makeshift crutch to help her move. Ben has a nasty wound on his stomach and lacerations on his face.

Alex eventually has a close encounter with a prowling mountain lion, which she shoots with a flare gun. That does the cat in (Ben finds its corpse, field dresses it, and uses the meat to keep them alive), but not before the cat does a number on the third member of Alex and Ben's party: Walter's dog. We hear the cat and dog tangle, and the pooch returns with an ear that's been badly chewed up. We watch Ben stitch it up as the poor pup whines.

Someone ends up falling through a frozen lake and nearly dies. Another character has a painful encounter with a bear trap. And the couple's trek through the snow and wild is full of tension and suspense. Ben jerry-rigs an IV of sorts to help Alex stay hydrated, and we see him pierce a vein in her arm.

Crude or Profane Language

One f-word. Nine s-words. About 10 misuses each of God's name (once paired with "d--n") as well as Jesus' name. We hear one use each of "a--," "d--mit" and "h---."

Drug and Alcohol Content

Several characters drink alcohol (beer, wine) at a party and at a restaurant. Alex talks about taking Advil for her pain.

Other Negative Elements

We hear Alex urinate and see the contents (in a bowl) being dumped in the snow. Later she talks about needing to "pee."

Alex finds Ben's digital audo recorder and listens to a message from a woman in Ben's past. Alex feels guilty for doing so, but she obviously feels justified in snooping because he doesn't tell her much about himself for some time. Ultimately, he catches her listening, which prompts him to share more of his painful story (after he yells at her for snooping through his stuff).

Conclusion

Why do survival stories fascinate us? After all, they tend to be pretty linear, plot-wise: People in a plane crash. People struggle to survive. Perhaps it's because these life-or-death dramas invite us to vicariously project ourselves into them, to wonder what we might do in a similarly desperate situation.

The Mountain Between Us (based on Charles Martin's 2010 novel of the same name) plays on that question by giving us characters who answer it in two radically different ways. Ben wants to stay put. Alex wants to go. And for me at least, that section of the movie felt the most compelling, the most believable. What would I do in that circumstance? I wondered. I'm not sure, actually.

But once Alex and Ben set off through the snow to find, well, anyone, things kind of fell apart for me. I kept noticing stuff they suddenly have that they didn't seem to have before, kept being distracted by nagging questions about the story's believability. Where did he get those great boots? I wondered. Where did that blanket come from? Is it really that easy to make a big fire in the middle of the winter? Wouldn't hypothermia kill you pretty quickly if you fell through a frozen lake and were submerged for a couple of minutes?

Etc.

Then Alex and Ben have spontaneous, surprisingly explicit sex for a PG-13 movie. From there, The Mountain Between Us feels less like a survival story and more like a Nicholas Sparks movie (albeit one where no one dies in the end). Toss in quite a bit of profanity—including quite a few misuses of Jesus' name—and this movie has as many content concerns as it has difficult-to-believe plot points.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Idris Elba as Ben Bass; Kate Winslet as Alex Martin; Beau Bridges as Walter; Dermot Mulroney as Mark

Director

Hany Abu-Assad ( )

Distributor

20th Century Fox

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

October 6, 2017

On Video

December 26, 2017

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Adam R. Holz

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults
We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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