Going to the movies can be a stressful experience, and not just because you may have to take out a personal loan in order to afford both your ticket AND a frozen coke.
This week, I had one such stressful movie experience.
I happily settled in to watch a preview screening of Kate Winslet and Idris Elba’s new flick, The Mountain Between Us, and it would be safe to say that my expectations were a little off the charts.
When two actors of this calibre team up for a movie that is billed as a fast paced adventure laced with an in-depth look at how humans deal with extreme life and death adversary, you’re expecting to see a film that’s more entreating than the usual fare of half-hearted popcorn flicks that have been on offer of late.
The movie itself is quite riveting, and because of Winslet and Elba’s performances you care deeply about the fates of their characters, Alex and Ben, from the moment they appear on screen. Yet this movie is very hard to watch.
In fact, it’s downright stressful.
I’m talking clutch the stranger’s hand next to you, heart in your stomach, call your loved ones as soon as you exit the theatre levels of stress and panic here.
Listen: For the best new TV shows you need to be watching, listen to The Binge:
First up, if you’ve laid eyes on any of the promotional material that’s been doing the rounds in the lead up to the movie’s release, it won’t be a surprise to you that the film kicks off with a horrifying plane crash.
The seeds of fear are planted as soon as our fearless heroes cavalierly jump onto a tiny, poorly-kept plane. One that doesn’t look quite able to fly over a lawn mower let alone a mountain, and take off into the skies.
They do this without a second thought, even though their pilot happily admits that he didn’t bother to file a flight plan and neither of these travellers, who were stressed out after their original commercial flight was cancelled, bother to call their loved ones/places of work to let them know what is happening.
Considering Ben is a neurosurgeon charged with cutting into people’s brains and Alex is a photographer who specialises in covering high danger zones, you’d think that maybe one of them would have predicted that this course of action was going to end in tears…
Now, the rational side of me knows that travelling by plane is far safer than travelling by car, but like many people the root of my fear does not stem from statistics or logic, but the horror that comes from putting my life in someone else's hands.
Just as the plane carrying Alex and Ben is soaring above the snow-capped mountains, things take a turn for the worst.
The pilot, (known as Walter/the man who has sent my fear of flying into overdrive) suddenly becomes disoriented and then starts to slur his words. Ben quickly identifies that he is having a stoke but by then the plane has already split in two (not quite sure how that happened?) and is hurtling down towards the ground.
At this point in the movie, if you're still hanging around, there's a good chance that one of your mortal fears has been triggered and you're wondering just how gross things would get if you crawled beneath your cinema seat and continued to shake with fear.
If you have a fear of flying, you'll be triggered. If you have a fear of sudden medical issues taking you down (stroke, heart attack) you'll be triggered. If you have a fear of being trapped in a tiny broken aircraft in a frozen wasteland with a sexy doctor, a broken leg and a vicious cougar, you'll be triggered.
(Yes, I know that last one is weirdly specific, but this is a judgement free zone. If you're terrified of Idris Elba's raw sexual magnetism coupled with the rationing out of old sandwiches, I'm not here to make your life difficult).
Then, as if the events of this movie weren't traumatic enough, they throw in the ultimate tear-jerk movie curve ball. The one thing that is guaranteed to make even the Grinchiest Grinch with a heart of stone dissolve into a puddle of watery eyes and trembling lips.
The factor that, even if you've sat through numerous human deaths and trauma on screen, is guaranteed to break you.
They put a dog in mortal danger.
It is a fact universally acknowledged that once you throw a dog into the disaster movie mix, people immediately shuffle forward in their seats and things tend to get a little aggressive.
My friend Valentina even went so far as to lean across the cinema seats and whisper to me "if that dog dies, I'm leaving. I mean it." And instead of shushing her, the audience members around us all began murmuring vehemently in agreement and support.
And where did that dog even come from, I hear you ask? Well, Walter (you may remember him as the genius pilot who didn't bother to file the flight plan) decided that it would be better to bring his pet along on this aerial expedition instead of, you know, emergency supplies.
Walter's Dog (no, they don't bother to give him a proper name, despite continually risking their lives for him) accompanies his new humans on quite the adventure as they make their way down the treacherous mountain in search of help, and every time he dashes off screen there's a loan, pitiful wimper. (From the dog, not the audience. At least at first.)
It got to the point where I nearly jumped out of my seat and screamed "just kill the damn dog already! Get it over with!".
The screenwriters purely threw him in there just to elicit some cheap, easy tension. Those canine abusing jerks.
All in all, The Mountain Between Us is a very watchable film, even if it does strangely veer away from drama-land and into romantic comedy territory at the end there.
But please, do not allow yourself to be pulled into this tense movie experience by the beautiful, calming magic that is Idris Elba's face. Because this is a movie that will either leave you with nerves more frayed than a used tea towel, or have you maxing out your credit card while signing up for wilderness survival courses.
You can follow Mamamia Entertainment Editor and host of The Binge podcast Laura Brodnik on Facebook.
The Mountain Between Us is in cinemas Australia wide now. It is rated M.