Encounter follows and narrates to us the story of a decorated marine Malik Khan played by Riz Ahmed, who is on a mission to save his two sons. As we move further along the story, the line between reality and Malik’s mission becomes very blurry, messy, and very questionable. Eventually, the film loses its steam and starts testing the patience of its viewers. Michael Pearce and his team deliver and open the film with one of the best and most striking opening sequences for a film this year, and in fact, it is one of the most misleading sequences ever in a film as well.
Riz Ahmed delivers a masterful performance in Encounter. Ahmed’s character Malik is one of the few people left on earth that is uninfected and begins the movie in high trauma mode. Ahmed masterfully manages to keep the same intensity throughout the film. Covering himself with bug spray and constantly checking for any signs of infection, Riz Ahmed’s character is trying to become an expert on micro-organisms and more prominently extraterrestrial.
As we further move along the story, we come to know about his estranged wife Priya (Janina Gavankar) who is seemingly sick, infected, and acting very strange. Malik shows up out of the blue and rescues his sons Jay (Lucian-River Chauhan) and Bobby (Aditya Geddada) and begins to take them on a road trip to save his sons from a seemingly possible alien invasion. Michael Pearce’s direction is very impressive and intriguing considering the script at hand, which was co-written by him and Joe Barton.
The movie does an impeccable job in generating interest and intrigue with a constant focus on insects and microorganisms. However, as soon as the first act ends, the central mystery that was built in the first act is completely abandoned and chooses to follow and fills the movie with so many familiar tropes and become very melodramatic.
Jed Kurzel’s skin-crawling, yet unsettling score is spread throughout the film and is one of the saving graces for the film along with Benjamin Kracun’s masterful work in showing isolated landscapes and cutting in between California roads and endless deserts. Pearce focuses on the bond of family and the little interactions between them. The film could have immensely benefitted and been arguably better if the plot focused on the characters of Malik and his sons throughout the trip. Instead of dipping its feet into so many tropes and genres unnecessarily.
Overall, Encounter is an incredibly moody film that wants and focuses on doing way too much and doesn’t deliver on anything the film initially sets itself to do. But it does manage to deliver and put the message of empathy is important, while completely wasting the brilliant performances from its stellar cast.
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