ENCOUNTER (AMAZON PRIME) (2021)
SYNOPSIS: A decorated Marine goes on a rescue mission to save his two young sons from an unhuman threat. As their journey takes them in increasingly dangerous directions, the boys will need to leave their childhoods behind.
Malik Khan is a desperate man with desperate measures. He sees meteors in the sky and he believes that half of the human population is infected by parasitic organism from another planet. And now he is on a mission to bring his two young sons on a road trip to Nevada where a safe facility resides.
Are bugs really taking over our planet? Or is there something sinister brewing in Malik?
Encounter stars Riz Ahmed (Rogue One, Sound of Metal) who delivered a gripping performance right from the start. His character Malik looks slightly unhinged, unstable. Something is off with the man. Barely ten minutes into it, you know this is not going to be a sci-fi alien invasion movie of any kind.
Rather than throwing specifics at the audiences, director and co-writer Michael Pearce allows the character of Malik and the relationship with his two sons to speak for itself. While his two sons initially believed his alien invasion theory, his elder son Jay (Lucian-River Chauhan) starts to question his father’s words as the journey goes because watching him beating up a cop and gravely wounding a man over a car seems over the top even his intention is to escape from an alien invasion.
The chemistry of the actors perhaps serves as the sole highlight of this otherwise bleak drama. The two wonderful child actors brilliantly captured the innocence opposite Ahmed with Jay being the mature one and Bobby (Aditya Geddada), the tantrums prone younger sibling. The interaction is often raw which build up to an emotionally devasting finale. Oscar-nominated Octavia Spencer has a small role-playing Malik’s parole officer. However, given the focus is not on Spencer’s character, she is largely forgotten for the most part.
The movie is reasonably compelling. The cinematography is top notch. Yet, the fact remains, Encounter is not everyone’s cup of tea. After all, it’s not a noisy, effects laden movie about alien bugs. Stripped off all the merits especially the cast performance, the depressing tale is yet a tired story of war veterans adjusting to normal life after their horrifying tour of duty.
Don’t get us wrong. The aftershocks of war can potentially be made into an interesting movie given the right ingredients. But Encounter just comes across as a cliched PTSD melodrama about family conflicts. No doubt it’s a sad drama but the pretentious misleading of it as a sci-fi flick hardly improve things or grant it more depth.
Review by Linus Tee