First Hit: Although a predictable story, it was touchingly well acted.
The story is relatively simple. Two strangers with very specific needs hire a private plane to fly them from Boise, ID to Denver, CO because their Denver flight has been cancelled, and there are no other flights that will get them to their destinations on time. Ben Bass (Idris Elba) is a surgeon and is expected in Baltimore the next day to perform surgery on a 10-year old boy. Alex Martin (Kate Winslet) is a news photographer who needs to head east because she’s getting married the next day. They are both motivated.
Hiring Walter (Beau Bridges) a veteran pilot, they get in his small plane, and without a flight plan, head out over Rocky Mountains towards Denver. Walter has a heart attack and during his struggle the plane crashes. Walter dies, Alex breaks a leg but is alive and Ben has some cracked ribs and bumps and bruises. Walter’s dog, who came along for the ride, also survives the crash.
They hang out in the partial fuselage that remains hoping to be seen in the mountain snow, but as commercial planes fly thousands of feet above them, they have an argument about what to do. Alex is a chance taker and wants to climb out of the mountains, while Ben is conservative in thought and action and he wants to stay at the plane. Neither of them believe they are going to make it out alive.
One morning, she heads out hobbling along through the deep snow with a temporary splint on her left leg. The dog goes with her. Ben stays back at the plane but decides to catch up with Alex and, reconciling their different views, decide to make an attempt to get out together.
Because they are so different, this story is excellent to have the characters learn about each other in their own ways. Ben is quiet and doesn’t want to talk about his personal life while Alex shares about herself and spends energy coxing more feelings out of Ben.
The excellent script, photography and acting allowed the audience to feel how cold they were, the pain of their injuries, the sadness of almost dying, and their developing relationship. We feel their focus on staying alive and getting down the mountain. We participate in what they go through together and their hopelessness.
Winslet is very good as the adventuring photographer who takes risks. We could sense her adventurous spirit. Elba was excellent as the conservative acting surgeon. His slow unfolding and sharing of his life in the film was wonderful. Bridges was wonderful in his short lived role. J. Mills Goodloe and Chris Weitz co-wrote an excellent screenplay which captured a slow developing caring of the characters. Hany Abu-Assad directed these two gifted actors with clear intention. They were strangers when they started and were both from very different worlds, and Hany elicited a slow revealing of these actors to the audience and to each other.
Overall: Although it had a predictable ending, the meat of story of how they worked together to get themselves down the mountain was worth watching.