This week’s new release The Mountain Between Us combines elements of two popular movie genres: The pairing of unlikely and slightly mismatched individuals and the placing of characters in an extreme situation that is so far outside their comfort zone as to be almost impossible to survive.
In this case Kate Winslet plays Alex Martin, a journalist who’s getting married the next day. Idris Elba plays Ben Bass, a surgeon on his way to perform an emergency procedure. The two charter a plane to get out of the airport that’s shut down due to weather. When their small plane crashes, they have to survive the cold and brutality of the mountain they’re stranded on, making their way across it to try and find safety.
Elba and Winslet are both seen on the first poster, though they’re facing in opposite directions as if they’re at odds with each other for some reason. That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense given the rest of the campaign, though. And the copy “What if your life depended on a stranger?” is way more creepy and cryptic than anything else we’ve seen. Odd tone here.
The first trailer starts out by introducing us to Ben and Alex, two strangers at an airport. She offers to take him on the private plane she’s chartered to bypass the usual issues. He’s on his way home and she’s on her way to be married. But the plane has a problem and crashes on top of a snow-covered mountain in the middle of nowhere, leaving them stranded far from civilization. She’s hurt and they have limited supplies but decide to set out to try and find help instead of waiting for it to come to them. Things go wrong, of course, as they fight for survival.
It’s alright but the trailer doesn’t do it any favors. It hits all the usual cliches of movies like this, including wild animals hunting them and someone falling through the ice into the cold water below. While there’s every possibility that there’s more to the story than this, the trailer looks pretty generic and like it doesn’t utilize the full capabilities of either Winslet of Elba.
Online and Social
The usual cropped version of the key art graces the top of Fox’s official website for the movie, below which are links to watch the trailer or find the movie’s Facebook and Twitter profiles.
The first section on the site is “Videos,” where you can watch the trailer as well as some clips and a few featurettes/interviews. “About” has a story synopsis alongside the cast and crew list and more links to the movie’s social pages, including an Instagram profile. “Poster” just has the single one-sheet.
In “Featured Content” you’ll find some interesting stuff. First is a photo feature that allows you to upload a picture of yourself to a still from the film to make it seem as if it’s you Elba is comforting instead of Winslet. Also there is a link to iTunes encouraging you to buy the new song from Zayn and Sia that was written for the film.
The site finishes off with a “Gallery” of a half-dozen stills and a curated section of “Social Updates.”
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
The debut of the trailer was supported with ad buys on social media, including YouTube which ran it as pre-roll before other videos.
The first TV spots like this one get quickly to the action and the peril the stranded travelers face as well as the emotional turmoil they’re put through as they try to survive out in the snowy wilderness. They’re just like the trailers only without as much setup and backstory.
Media and Publicity
It was announced the movie would have its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. The buzz that came out of that premiere wasn’t wholly positive, unfortunately. Not negative, but nothing to write home about for the most part.
Winslet talked in EW about the challenges of shooting in such a remote and unforgiving environment as well as how her style meshed with that of her costar. A short featurette focused on the extreme conditions that the movie was shot in and the challenges the cast and crew endured during production. The extreme conditions of the shoot continued to be the focal point of the press activity, with the crew and actors talking here about the search for reality and the technical challenges of the locations they found themselves on.
The physically challenging shoot was one of the subjects of this interview with Winslet, where she talked about drawing on the strength she’s built up over the years to handle it as well as what kinds of characters she likes to take on these days.
The two leads conducted in various other interviews and appearances, most of which continued to revolve around the logistics of the production more than anything else.
First, this is accurate:
The marketing is fine. Nothing special, but it’s fine. The continued focus in the publicity on the extreme conditions of the production and the adjustments everyone had to make have me thinking there’s an awareness the story itself is weak (or, worse, problematic) and so that was decided on as the safest hook for everyone to keep talking about. But whatever.
More problematic for me is something I didn’t notice until looking at the website, specifically that “In This With Idris” photo feature. What caught my eye is the fact that there’s only one option available, to erase Kate Winslet and put yourself in the position of the person relying on the big, strong man to protect them. That’s a little sexist, reinforcing gender roles. And it’s a lot disturbing that the feature asks you to literally remove a female character from the picture. The simple addition of both options would make it slightly better, at least allowing for equal opportunity removal and substitution.
After I saw that I went back and rewatched the trailer and noticed something else. Elba’s character is trying to travel because he’s Important. He has a Very Important Job To Do because he’s a highly-skilled individual who’s needed to save a life. His motivation is based in his talent and abilities. Winslet’s character, on the other hand, is emotional and feminine. She wants to get married. Her motivation isn’t about her own skills – her profession as a journalist is only passingly mentioned – but about her personal life.
The second issue is one the marketing campaign can’t do much with, though I have to wonder if that issue is one of the ones being masked by the “it was such a tough shoot” press focus. The first one, though, is an unforced error that seems out of whack with the current societal climate. It’s disconcerting that only the woman is deemed replaceable, easily swapped out with anyone at all. Someone in the marketing department needs to rethink that kind of approach and make sure female characters aren’t being written out of their own narratives.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.