It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
In "The Loneliest Planet," an engaged couple takes a backpacking hike over the beautiful but rugged trails of the Caucasus Mountains in the central European republic of Georgia. Midway on their trek, I was reminded of advice I once heard: "Never marry anyone without first taking a three-day bus trip with them."
Not much was clear to me about Alex (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Nica (Hani Furstenberg): not where they're from, or how they met, or what paths they're taking in life, or even why they decided to make this hike. It's not a dangerous mountain adventure, more of a long slog, which seems all the longer to us because the writer-director, Julia Loktev, likes to pull back for a long shot and simply watch them plodding for long periods.
They've hired a local named Dato (Bidzina Gujabidze) to guide them. English is the only language they have in common, although Alex and Nica speak it with different accents, and Dato speaks it hardly at all. They hired Dato in a village near the start of their walk, after enduring one of those vaguely ominous evenings in a tavern where the visiting foreigners attract a lot of scrutiny. A bearded local guy looms over Nica and asks her to dance, and the other bearded local guys study Alex to see how he feels about this. Alex smiles like a good sport, although that isn't how he's feeling at the moment.
On the trail, things seem idyllic for a while, as the couple chatter and flirt. Nica, somewhat younger than Alex, has one of those Michelle Williams faces that projects niceness and vulnerability. What does Dato see, and what does he think of it? Two men and a woman, miles from anywhere. Will it all come down to that?