‘The Mountain Between Us’ Book-to-Film Adaptation Gone Wrong

By Noah Orent, Contributing Writer

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The “Mountain Between Us” promotional poster, spotlighted on Fox’s website, features actors Kate Winslet and Idris Elba.
Photo courtesy of Foxmovies.com Photo credit: foxmovies.com

You walk into an airport and learn that your flight home has been grounded due to hazardous weather conditions. Overhearing a stranger in the same predicament, you offer to help the person out and book two seats on a charter plane. You think your problem has been solved. Just as you’re about to sit back and relax, the plane crashes mid-flight.

Stranded in the middle of nowhere, you’re now faced with two options: Stay where you are and wait for medical assistance to come, or take your chances and trek through the unforgiving wilderness with someone you’ve just met.

“The Mountain Between Us” is a romance disaster film based on Charles Martin’s 2011 novel attempting to bring the scenario to the film side. However, it only succeeds in wasting the audience’s time with a piece of artifice chock-full of tired clichés, trite dialogue and a snowy tryst that is almost unbearable to watch.

The film kicks off introducing Alex Martin, played by actress Kate Winslet, and Dr. Ben Bass, played by actor Idris Elba. Winslet’s character is a photojournalist while Elba’s plays a neurosurgeon. She is traveling to New York for her wedding while he is on his way to Baltimore, Maryland for a critical operation. The only thing they have in common is that their flights out of Idaho have been canceled because of an incoming storm.

Determined to get to where they need to be, the two strangers join forces and charter a private plane to Denver, Colorado. When their pilot, played by Beau Bridges, suffers a fatal stroke the plane crashes into the side of a snow-capped mountain range. Alex and Ben realize they must work together if they are going to make it back to civilization alive.

The thing about this film is that it is a classic example of a book-to-film adaptation gone wrong. Chris Weitz and J. Mills Goodloe’s screenplay mutilates Martin’s text by not only changing the names and locations of the characters, but by adding a third act that was unnecessary.

Director Hany Abu-Assad, known for spearheading the Academy Award nominated films “Paradise Now” and “Omar”, only makes matters worse by failing to strike a balance between the two genres. The mixing of genres disrupts the flow of the narrative until it is muddled.

The film suffers from a deep seeded predictability. Abandoned cabins are hidden in plain sight, loaded flare guns are conveniently placed and vicious cougars are easily killed. There are so many hackneyed moments where the film crew didn’t bother to think about fleshing out the circumstances in order to create what could have been a perilous journey through the furthest reaches of civilization.

There is little to enjoy about this film, especially since no one can connect with either of the central characters. The co-writers’ attempt to establish Alex and Ben as polar opposites is a cheap one and prevents the emotional connection they eventually forge from becoming real or meaningful. There is nothing driving them as they meander down the mountain range through the forest. There is nothing but a “determination” to make it back home and continue living their normal lives.

The only living thing who deserves any praise is the Golden Labrador who accompanies Alex and Ben as they embark on their quest.

One might describe the trailer for “The Mountain Between Us” as suspenseful and sentimental, but there’s only one word to describe the final product: insipid.

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