This Canadian action-adventure drama tells the story of two survivors of a plane crash who trek over the ice and snow in wintry wilderness to try to stay alive in mountain country, before finding romance with each other.
The film is based loosely on the best selling novel of the same name written by Charles Martin and published in 2010. The movie was shot in the Purcell Mountains, near Calgary, Canada, in temperatures of minus 32 degrees.
The survivors in question are Dr. Ben Bass (Idris Elba), an over-controlled British neurosurgeon, and Alex Martin (Kate Winslet), a headstrong young woman, who is on assignment as a photographer-journalist for The Guardian newspaper. Both find themselves stranded at Salt Lake City Airport by an approaching storm. Ben is haunted by memories of his dead wife, and needs to meet urgent professional deadlines. Alex is desperate to get to her destination for other reasons.
Ben has emergency surgery to perform the following day on a critically ill 10-yr. old child, and Alex is getting married. All commercial flights are cancelled, and they both decide unwisely to charter a private plane. They board the plane as complete strangers to each other, and their plane crashes in remote snow-covered mountains en route.
The pilot of their plane (Beau Bridges) has a stroke, causing the plane to crash, and both Ben and Alex are injured. She has a broken leg, and Ben has cracked ribs and bruising. After crashing, the small plane perches perilously on a cliff top and they manage to extract themselves together with the pilot’s (well trained) dog. The two of them argue intensely for days about what is the best thing to do, and with no help likely to come, they embark on a journey by foot across the mountain.
Both are forced by their dire situation to connect, and Ben and Alex look to each other to find the strength to endure. After the plane crash, the theme of survival combines with the theme of romantic attachment. Survival is the first priority for them both, but romance complicates the mix. This is a film that has two seasoned performers (Winslet and Elba), who make the film work, but it is easy to guess what will happen. Survival eventually happens, and romance occurs.
The film’s cinematography is excellent. The plane crash has the look of total authenticity about it, and its crash into the mountain top is depicted spectacularly. The cinematography captures wonderfully well the wintry landscapes and snow covered mountain peaks of Canada. It is abundantly clear that this environment poses major challenges for Ben and Alex – or anyone else – hoping to survive, and the mountain scenery is spectacular.
The film is entertaining adventurous fare. Lots of hazardous events happen to the two. They experience mountain lions, collapsing snow, frostbite, hunger, thin ice, freezing water, and steel traps hidden in the snow, all of which make the going tough. Ben and Alex are sure they are going to die, but survive the hazards that are thrown in their path. The overall moral of the film is that shared trauma can cement transient human relationships into long-lasting, binding connections – there is genuine drama in a story about two strangers, hurled into a punishing environment, who can only survive by depending on each other.
The acting of Winslet and Elba dramatically enlivens the story of survival, and they generate good interpersonal chemistry in the movie to make it an enjoyable one. There is no doubt that both Winslet and Elba had to pit themselves against a very inhospitable environment, well away from the structured comforts of studio film sets. They come through in the story-line, but impressively endured a lot to do so.
Peter W. Sheehan is Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.
Review by the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting