MOVIE REVIEW: Winslet heats up screen in icy drama
SHOULD your plane crash in a remote mountain range without a functioning emergency beacon, you'd be hard pressed to find a better companion-in-crisis than British actor Idris Elba.
Especially in his latest incarnation as a leading neurosurgeon.
Ben Bass (Elba) can improvise an IV drip out of found objects. He's familiar with all the tell-tale signs of exposure and remains extraordinarily calm in an emergency.
The man is also 1.9m tall and as well built as any action hero (The Dark Tower's Roland Deschain was one of Elba's most recent roles.)
Then there's his secret weapon: the limpid brown eyes with which he can see into his leading lady's soul.
If Elba/Bass was stranded on a mountain top, he'd be hard pressed to find a better match than the fabulously feisty Kate Winslet (He keeps his Hackney accent. She nails an American one.)
Especially in Winslet's current incarnation as a fearless photojournalist.
Alex Martin's (Winslet) profession might be of less obvious practical use in her current predicament, but she's remarkably resilient - a result, no doubt, of all that time spent in the world's hot spots.
The strangers meet at a crowded airport when their flight is grounded by an impending storm. She has a wedding to get to - her own. He has emergency surgery to perform.
They charter a small plane. While it's a foolhardy decision, pilot Beau Bridges' mid-air stroke is what ultimately causes the crash. And from here, the strangers' skill sets prove strangely complementary.
When Ben comes to, he switches straight into survival mode - icing wounds, stitching, splinting.
Once that's done, he takes care of shelter, food, water.
Alex's injuries are more severe. But convinced that nobody is coming to rescue them, she persuades Ben to take a huge risk - striking out on a perilous journey across hundreds of kilometres of wilderness.
Their icy odyssey includes a close encounter with a snow leopard, an accidental subzero swim and an ugly altercation with a steel-jaw animal trap.
If the pacing of the film is uneven at times, that might be explained by the fact that The Mountain Between Us isn't so much a survival flick as a disaster romance.
Neither Elba nor Winslet is capable of a bad performance and the chemistry between them threatens to melt the film's spectacular snow-covered backdrop.
Their acting compels the story forward even when the action falters.
All that remains to be resolved, as the final credits roll, is why two such talented actors chose this exceptionally average screenplay as their vehicle.
The Mountain Between Us opens tomorrow.
The Mountain Between Us
Stars: Kate Winslet, Idris Elba, Beau Bridges, Dermot Mulroney.
Director: Hany Abu-Assad
Verdict: A romance on ice