Based on the 2011 romance novel by Charles Martin and directed by Hany Abu-Assad, The Mountain Between Us follows Dr Ben Bass (Idris Elba) and journalist Alex Martin (Kate Winslet) who are stranded in the High Uintas Wilderness after their charter plane crashes when the pilot has a heart attack mid-flight. Knowing that nobody is coming to their rescue, the couple must trek through the snow-capped mountains against the harsh conditions to find safety. The ordeal leads them to rely on each other to stay alive and, ultimately, brings them closer together.
The following post is a review of the film only. You can read my review of the book here or my comparison of the film to the book here.
The Mountain Between Us is a lesson in how not to make a film adaptation and in how bad casting and an awful script can absolutely ruin an initially well-written story.
Charles Martin’s The Mountain Between Us is one of my favourite books; a remarkable story that breaks me into pieces with its heartbreaking ending with every read. But you wouldn’t have thought that from this terrible adaptation.
It’s always going to be difficult to enjoy a film that has been adapted from a book that you really enjoyed, but getting to see a story you love brought to life on-screen is usually something to look forward to. Yet I knew from the trailers alone that this film wasn’t going to be any good. It made a tear-jerking romance look like a rom-com, and it was obvious from that start that the casting was well off. However, I didn’t expect it to slaughter the original story quite so much.
The only thing that this film adaptation keeps the same as the book is that it is centred on a man named Ben (although his surname is even changed) and that it is about a plane crash in some mountains. There is very little else that reflects well on the book. Most of the characters names are changed, their traits and personalities are completely different, the way their relationships develops are different, and any emotion that the book has, the film manages to trample all over.
Not only is the film adaptation awfully cast (It was originally meant to star Michael Fassbender and Rosamund Pike in the leads when I first read the book, who much better suited the roles), but the film completely changes the story and its message. Most notably, it completely ruins the twist at the end – that Ben’s wife has been dead all along. Not only that, but the film details her death in just a single sentence, that she died from a brain tumour. In the book, the revelation of Rachel’s death comes as a huge shock, dying alongside her unborn babies as she suffers internal bleeding from a complicated pregnancy with twins, which Ashley (Alex in the film) doesn’t find out about until after they return home.
It’s such a heartbreaking and poignant moment in the book which the film not only ruins but completely lacks any respect for. The book takes the time to explore Ben and Rachel’s past relationship, about how they met and fell in love, which is why you feel so close to the characters in the book. I found so much to relate to but also so much to admire about Ben’s outlook on life, just as Ashley did. Instead, the characters in the film are hostile and arrogant and I find it impossible to believe that two people like this would ever come together.
Would I like this film if I hadn’t read the book? No. This film makes Charles Martin’s novel seem lazily written and completely lacking in emotion when it is anything but. Instead, the story comes across as badly developed, cringy, and just plain ridiculous for the most part. It’s no wonder that it was such a flop because it disregards anything that was good about the story it was dealing with.
As for the casting, Elba may be some people’s dream actor to be stuck in the mountains with, but he’s definitely not who the book describes. There’s not a single thing about his personality that is like the Ben in the book. The whole purpose of the book is that he makes Ashley believe in love because of how he looks at the world and other people. He’s deeply caring and considerate and is the kind of man who you would hope to exist. Elba just shouts a lot and keeps to himself, so it’s any wonder that Winslet falls for him at all. Winslet’s performance is disappointingly unconvincing, too, which was one thing that I thought we could have relied on. Her character is supposed to be younger and carefree, yet she’s bossy and lacks any sense of humour. There’s just nothing to like about either of them.
If you enjoy reading, then please forget about this film and give the book a read. I would hate to think that people are going to avoid this phenomenal book because of this awful adaptation, so give it a chance. You won’t even recognise the story!
Now, I’m off to reread my favourite book again and erase this film from my memory.