Mission Lab 2018

REVIEW: ‘The Mountain Between Us’ is a fun film … with some monumental problems

October 6th, 2017 / By: Michael Foust / comments

REVIEW: ‘The Mountain Between Us’ is a fun film … with some monumental problems

Alex is a 40-something woman stranded in an airport, desperately trying to find an available flight so she won’t miss her wedding the next day. Ben, too, is stranded, and as a neurosurgeon needs to get home so he won’t miss a critical appointment at the hospital.

And with a major snow storm approaching, all hope seems lost.

Alex, though, has a solution: She will pay the pilot of a small private plane to take her to the nearest commercial airport, which has plenty of available flights. And she will get Ben – a total stranger – to split the bill. Brilliant, right? Well, not really.

The problems begin when the pilot flies into the storm. Then, he has a stroke. Then, the plane crashes on top of a snow-capped mountain – miles and miles from civilization in the Idaho wilderness. It kills the pilot, but Alex and Ben survive. Can they find enough food and withstand the harsh elements until they find civilization?     

The Mountain Between Us (PG-13) opens this weekend, telling the story of two strangers who must fight for survival despite their vast differences. It stars Idris Elba (Prometheus, The Dark Tower) as Ben and Kate Winslet (Titanic, Revolutionary Road) as Alex, and was directed by Hany Abu-Assad, who also helmed the 2005 Oscar-nominated film Paradise Now.

Alex is a white American and Ben a black Englishman, but their differences go much deeper. She, of course, is engaged; he was married years ago. She’s spontaneous and wants to search for help; he’s cautious and wants to wait at the crash site. She’s a photographer with an artistic view on life; he’s a surgeon with an analytical mind.       

The Mountain Between Us is enjoyable as a survival film, although it has a few major content problems that might cause some moviegoers to stay at home.

Warning: spoilers!    

Violence/Disturbing

Minimal. The crash is intense but not gory. Ben suffers an abdominal wound; Alex has cuts to the face and a broken leg. Later, one character nearly falls off a cliff. A cougar threatens another character. Finally, Alex nearly drowns in the frigid water.

Sexuality/Sensuality/Nudity

Moderate. Their predicament leads to some awkward moments. Needing to urinate but unable to loosen her pants due to her broken leg, Alex requests the help of Ben. Nothing is seen, and it remains non-sexual. Later, they joke about her “fancy underwear.” The movie’s most problematic moment takes place after they find an abandoned house at the bottom of the mountain. There, they kiss and make love in a bedroom scene that borderline ruins the movie, even if it doesn’t contain nudity (although we see plenty of skin).    

Coarse Language

Excessive. I counted 18 coarse words, many of them profane: misuse of “Jesus” (5), OMG (3), s—t (3), misuse of “Jesus Christ” (2), misuse of “God” (1), f-word (1), d—n (1), a—(1), h-ll (1).

Other Positive Elements

Ben’s beliefs about marriage are admirable. We learn that his wife died two years ago, yet he has continued to wear his wedding ring out of a sense of commitment. The film’s final minutes further highlight his beliefs about marriage, when he says he refused to take a phone call from a suiter because he thought she was married.     

Ben also says of the human body’s ability to cope in cold weather: “It’s quite ingenious what God did.”  

Other Negative Elements

Hollywood creates dozens if not hundreds of movies each year with a simple premise: Follow your heart. The Mountain Between Us is another such film. Scripture, of course, urges us to align our heart with God’s will (Proverbs 3:5). Why? Because the heart is wicked (Jeremiah 17:9).

Life Lessons

The Mountain Between Us provides plenty of lessons about the human will to survive. Facing sub-freezing conditions with no food and water, each day they find a reason to keep living.

The movie also spotlights unselfish actions. She urges him to go find help and leave her behind, but he refuses, knowing she might die. In fact, several times he chooses to risk his own life to keep her safe.  

Worldview

God created humans with the will to survive during physically challenging times, but he also equipped us with the gifts to do so. Think about it: Animals can’t make a fire or cook food. They can’t build snowshoes and sleds. But God gave people the knowledge to survive in the harshest of conditions – from frigid cold to desert heat. That’s not true of any animal. Take out the objectionable content, and The Mountain Between Us is a fascinating exploration of mankind’s incredible ability to cope and survive. Our bodies even adjust! Ben said it best: “It’s quite ingenious what God did.”   

What I Liked

The mountain scenes (it was filmed in British Columbia) and the survival story (there are plenty of surprises). The ending was pretty good, too.

What I Didn’t Like

The language and the bedroom scene. What can’t Hollywood make a romantic movie without tossing in a sex scene? It is possible to fall in love without immediately hopping in the bed. Scripture says as much – and commands it. Honestly, the movie lost its momentum from that point forward.  

Family-Friendly?

The Mountain Between Us is not suitable for children. As for teens? Families will reach different conclusions, but the bedroom scene will cause many parents to squirm (or get up and walk out). It might be best to wait for the DVD.  

Discussion Questions

  1. Why do you think Ben kept wearing his wedding ring?
  2. What would you have done if you were in Ben’s position when he was trying to survive? In Alex’s position?
  3. Do you think Alex should have married Mark?
  4. Ben said the “heart is just a muscle.” Was he right or wrong?
  5. What makes humans different from animals in a survival situation?
  6. Did you like the ending? Why or why not?

Entertainment rating: 3 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 2 out of 5 stars.

The Mountain Between Us is rated PG-13 for a scene of sexuality, peril, injury images, and brief strong language.