28 July 2018 | bob-the-movie-man
A film not quite sure what it's trying to be.
Idris Elba after scoring a mammoth hit with UK TV's "Luther" has really struggled to make a breakthrough as a leading man into A-grade movies. Although he's had some strong supporting roles ("Molly's Game" and "Star Trek Beyond" for example) and small bit parts in the Marvel universe, when he has landed a lead role they are in films best forgotton (e.g. "Bastille Day"; "The Dark Tower"). This is seldom down to his performance. Here he is given more of a chance to shine, in what is almost a two-hander with Kate Winslet ("Triple 9", "Steve Jobs") for most of the film. And he is the best thing in the film: lots of the brooding look that he is so famous for.
Elba plays Ben Bass, a neuro-surgeon stranded at Boise airport who has to get back to Baltimore for an important operation. Winslett playing Alex Martin, a famous photo-journalist, is stranded with him and equally desperate to travel as she is due to get married in New York the following day. The two club together to hire a plane from charter pilot Walter (Beau Bridges, "Homeland", "The Descendents"). But in terrible conditions, and with a medical emergency, the plane crash lands in the snow of the Rockies, and Ben and Alex (together with Walter's Labrador) need to struggle to survive in the wilderness. The problem is that they are an odd couple, and constantly wind each other up the wrong way.
It's a well-worn tale that has been portrayed many times before in films like "Alive" and "The Grey", so what makes the film live or die is the quality of the screenplay and the chemistry between the characters. Unfortunately the former by Chris Weitz (co-writer on "Rogue One") is rather clunky, and in the latter case I just didn't feel it. Winslett's character is just so incredibly whiney and annoying that the thought of Ben doing anything with her other than hitting her with the shovel and feeding her to the dog seems unlikely! Winslett seems to sense that too, since I never felt she was completely invested in her character. Aside from one (impressive) monologue, I found it to be a so-so performance from her.
Aside from Elba the other star of the show is the landscape of the High Uintascape in North East Utah of the which is beautifully filmed, on location by Mandy Walker ("Hidden Figures").
The story leaps from improbability to improbability and raises more questions than it answers: in a survival situation should you walk or stay put? If you have a dog, should you eat it* and what condiments are appropriate? Does an iced-over river have any current flowing under the ice? If they both died, would the audience care?
No spoilers with answers to any of these (*apart from the dog... just joking, they don't!) , but the ending is as corny as you can get... but it still gave me a lump in my throat. #suckered!
Directed by Hany Abu-Assad, overall if you have a rainy afternoon you need to fill then this a perfectly pleasant movie to veg in front of, but it neither completely satisfies as a romance nor as an adventure flick but falls rather uncomfortably between the two stools.