Review by Camden Ferrell
Encounter is the sophomore feature from writer and director Michael Pierce, whose first movie, Beast, earned him a BAFTA Award. His newest movie had its premiere at the 2021 Telluride Film Festival and assembles a talented cast. Despite its interesting and mysterious premise, it reveals its hand too early and can often suffer from less than stellar execution.
Malik is a military veteran and a father of two young boys. One day, he decides to take his kids on the run from the military as he attempts to protect his children from a looming alien parasitic invasion. This is an interesting premise that mixes elements of family drama and sci-fi thrills, and it has a lot of promise to be a unique spin on a body snatchers story.
The script, written by Pearce and Joe Barton, is decent, but it makes some significant mistakes in structuring its story that ends up being one of the film’s biggest pitfalls. One of the main draws of the film’s opening act is its mystery and suspense. However, the film doesn’t seem to see this is a valuable asset, and it unfortunately reveals its hand far too soon. Aside from that major flaw though, there are a handful of meaningful moments dispersed throughout that let the actors shine occasionally.
The acting is above average, but it is somewhat underwhelming considering the talent featured. The movie is led by Riz Ahmed, who most recently was nominated for an Oscar for his amazing role in Sound of Metal. His work is almost always exquisite, which makes his performance here feel disappointing in comparison. He is accompanied by young actors, Lucian-River Chauhan and Aditya Geddada who are both fairly talented but don’t have a whole lot to do in this movie. The film also features Octavia Spencer in a supporting role, but like Ahmed, it feels like she isn’t on the top of her game either.
Without giving too much away about its plot, the movie stumbles in terms of execution. It sometimes doesn’t know how best to handle its premise and construct its narrative. It can also drag a fair amount for a movie under two hours. It also doesn’t do a whole lot of world building which could have helped further develop a movie such as this.
Encounter has its charms and intrigue, but it’s mostly brought down by a questionably constructed narrative and not quiet memorable performances from its talented cast. Some sci-fi fans might find things to enjoy in the film’s aesthetic and inspirations, but most viewers might find it to have too many lulls.
Encounter is in select theaters December 3 and on Amazon Prime December 10.