Published On: Fri, Oct 6th, 2017

The Mountain Between Us’ thrills and stars outshone by a dog: review

The Mountain Between Us

Starring Kate Winslet, Idris Elba and a dog. Directed by Hany Abu-Assad. Opens Friday at GTA theatres. 112 minutes. 14A

The Mountain Between Us is a survival romance starring Kate Winslet, Idris Elba and a dog with no name.

Too bad about that last bit. The pooch in question, a Labrador retriever with more personality than a basketful of puppies, deserves marquee status along with his Hollywood companions.

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He manages to remain perky and adorable at all times, despite being stranded inside a crashed airplane atop a high peak in the Rockies. The same can’t be said of his human companions: feisty Alex (Winslet) and studly Ben (Elba), who look like they’re going to freeze, starve or argue unto death, whichever comes first.

The humans do have a reason for being miserable. Alex, a photojournalist, was supposed to be flying to her wedding. Ben, a neurosurgeon, had important doctor stuff to attend to.

An approaching winter storm prevented their commercial flights from taking off from the Salt Lake City airport. So Alex and Ben, complete strangers, did what any sensible people would do and hired a tiny charter plane, flown by a sketchy pilot (Beau Bridges) and his friendly dog. Did I mention that he’s adorable? The dog, not the pilot.

Bad things happened, and now the wrecked plane rests atop a Utah mountain (actually one in B.C., where this was filmed) with no pilot and no radio or cellphone signal. Civilization is many kilometres away across snowy and elevated terrain.

Alex has a broken leg and Ben is severely annoyed with her. Wasn’t it all her crazy idea to begin with? And now she wants to attempt to climb down the mountain? Alex is supposed to represent the emotional risk taker and Ben the rational killjoy, which is something Billy Wilder would have had fun with a million years ago.

The Mountain Between Us isn’t much fun, although the dog is having a grand ol’ time, perhaps not realizing that in a conventional survival movie he’d be on the menu faster than you could say “Puppy Chow.”

Spoiler alert: They don’t eat the dog. What kind of movie do you think this is? It’s based on a soapy novel by Charles Martin, the kind you might ironically purchase in an airport while heading out on vacation. (Chris Weitz and J. Mills Goodloe combined for the screenplay, which Paradise Now’s Hany Abu-Assad directed.)

Actually, this is what people used to call a “movie movie,” the kind that works best if you cease attempting to apply any sort of logic to it.

Winslet and Elba are great actors who bring their “A” game to “B” material, and director Abu-Assad makes full use of the magnificent scenery, employing the usual wilderness danger tropes — scary cliffs, a marauding cougar — to good effect. It’s diverting stuff, for the most part.

But the real star of the show is the dog with no name, who I learned via intrepid sleuthing (Winslet told me) has a name in real life: Riley.

Riley, call your agent. You deserve a raise, or at least extra kibble.

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TORONTO STAR

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- Blue-collar guy interested in politics, business, and internet - Fan of sports and leisure - Movie buff

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The Mountain Between Us’ thrills and stars outshone by a dog: review