Even with Riz Ahmed, Encounter remained an obvious and underwhelming experience.
This review of Amazon original film Encounter (2021) does not contain spoilers.
Encounter has a solid premise and wickedly heroic turns by its star, the Sound of Metal’s Riz Ahmed. There is nothing quite like an alien invasion film, especially the psychological kind where the danger is accurate but can not be seen. Michael Pearson’s film has that quality, along with some of the more disturbing and creepy closeups of alien hosts taking over the body you have seen in quite a while. But I kept waiting for the plot to shift. Encounter remains obvious and underwhelming. Suffice it to say, this one bugged me.
Ahmed plays Malik Khan, a decorated Marine who left home to continue a secret government operation. A race of aliens is taking over the planet. Microscopic one that looks like bugs or worms that invade the host. There is only one way to tell if a human is taken over. This happens when you see the worm-like creatures moving around in the host’s retinas (it’s super creepy and disgusting). Sadly, he has gotten word that his boys Jay (Lucian-River Chauhan) and Bobby (Aditya Geddada) are in danger because his ex-wife (played by Blindspotting and The Way Back‘s Janina Gavankar) has been infected by the invading alien race.
So, that’s why Malik takes a flashlight and examines his boy’s eyes when he sneaks inside the house on a rescue mission. He sprays them down with bug spray and heads off on a dangerous road trip to base camp. The problem is no one else knows about the invasion. So, an FBI agent (Rory Cochrane) and an old friend of Malik’s (Octavia Spencer) race across the country because they think the boys have been kidnapped.
Encounter was directed by Michael Pearce (Beast). He wrote the script with scribe Joe Barton (Giri/Haji). I mentioned waiting for the plot to shift that never came. This was after a very early reveal that is fairly obvious. This causes the script from keeping the viewer guessing the way it should. This has to do with the Octavia Spencer character. This character gives away too much if you read any reviews or watch any trailers.
Encounter is a strange movie experience. It’s engaging but loses suspense too quickly. Yet, they pair it with a lovely, evocative score from Jed Kurzel that should be placed in a better movie. The reason for this is that Pearce and Barton attempt to morph their film into a human story that doesn’t work.
It’s a film that knows what it wants to be but is confused about going about it.
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