Director: Michael Pearce
Writer: Michael Pearce and Joe Barton
Starring: Riz Ahmed, Octavia Spencer, Janina Gavankar, Rory Cochrane, Lucian-River Chauhan, Aditya Geddada
The latest film from Amazon Studios is a sci-fi thriller that explores mental illness and the lengths someone would go to protect their family. Malik Khan (Riz Ahmed) is a US marine, who finds out that aliens have attacked Earth. Little parasites that root themselves into humans and take over, killing anyone who stops them. Khan picks up his children from his ex’s house in the middle of the night taking them on a road trip to keep them safe and protect them the invasion.
The first half of Encounter is brilliant. It hooks you almost instantly with some great effects and a compelling lead character. It then reveals its full hand way too early, and feels like a bad trick has been played. Almost instantly the tension that’s been built up is just gone. It’s a twist you can almost see coming, but it’s so badly executed. Maybe if it was left to the end, so we have more time to get there ourselves, or if everything was laid out at the beginning so we are all on the same page and it didn’t spend so long building up a fake narrative to hide everything under, then it wouldn’t be an issue. The second half feels really dragged out as it tries to keep you engaged, and while there are a few great moments, especially the shoot out and final scene, it’s just not enough to reclaim the greatness of the opening act.
Riz Ahmed, as always, is excellent as Malik Khan. He’s one of the most consistent actors around at the moment and his performance in Encounter is no exception. He’s a step above everyone else in the film. One the big reveal happens, and all the acceleration in suspense is lost, Ahmed is the only reason to carry on. The best parts of this film are Khan playing with his two sons. There’s a real connection between them and it would be just as entertaining if it was just a road trip drama about a dad who see’s his children for the weekend. It’s easy to connect with the characters through Ahmed’s performance.
The cinematography by Benjamin Kracun is incredible. There’s lots of close-up shots at the beginning of insects and creepy crawlies that look great, the dessert that Khan and his children play in looks beautiful. In the same way that the effects are spectacular. There’s a moment early on where a cop pulls Khan over and you can see the parasite in the cop’s eye as it moves around. It’s looks great and will have your skin crawling. There’s also a scene reminiscent of the scarab scene in The Mummy, that will have you scratching yourself.
Encounter is hard to talk about without spoiling anything. The twist happens way to early in the film, with no build up. By trying to be two different types of film, it fails at being either. You get invested in the story being told, and then it changes gears and takes way too long to pick speed back up. It’s a real shame because Ahmed is brilliant and just deserves a better script.
It’s still has some great moments and the final half hour or so is excellent, it’s just a shame that the film is paced so poorly up to that point.
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