Synopsis: Two brothers embark on a journey with their father, a decorated marine trying to protect them from an alien threat.
Stars: Riz Ahmed, Octavia Spencer, Lucian-River Mirage Chauhan, Aditya Geddada, Rory Cochrane, Janina Gavankar
Director: Michael Pearce
Running Length: 108 minutes
TMMM Score: (4/10)
Review: Similar to feeling aghast when a designer on Bravo’s Project Runway sends a model down the catwalk not entirely dressed for success, there’s little I like less than seeing a film with good actors stuck in flimsy material. You understand the desire to branch out and try for work that’s off the beaten path, different from the norm, but in that same vein it stands to reason the effort should also have point and purpose that make it worth your while. It’s especially strenuous when the actors involved are so good that they usurp the material and almost make something of it and sadly that’s where we have to put a film like the new movie arriving on Amazon Prime, Encounter.
Starring Oscar nominee Riz Ahmed and Oscar winner Octavia Spencer, this is one of those movies harboring a twist that you sit through the whole movie wondering why it’s even being kept under wraps as long as it is. In the spirit of the nature of this site and also out of respect for the filmmakers, I’m not going to spoil it but if you can’t spot where Encounter is headed almost from the moment Ahmed’s PTSD-suffering ex-marine starts spraying himself with a can of bug repellant to ward off the insects that burrow into your skin and change you into mindless drones…you need to get out more.
There’s an impressive opening to Encounter and for at least those opening moments I was interested to see what director Michael Pearce, who got a big jump to his burgeoning career with the wildly wonderful chiller Beast in 2017, had in store for us. Watching a mosquito infect a human bloodstream with a creepy crawly organism absolutely made me start feeling itchy all over and so Pearce gets the audience into the appropriate mood but fails to keep us there for much longer, mostly because that’s the extent of the impressive ideas.
Once that concept is established that’s pretty much all there is to Encounter and so we’re just following Malik Khan (Ahmed, Sound of Metal) as he “saves” his two young sons Jay (Lucian-River Chauhan) and Bobby (Aditya Geddada) from his ex-wife and her new husband who he believes have been infected by the organism. Of course, his ex and the authorities don’t see it so much as saving as child abduction. With the help of Hattie (Octavia Spencer, Thunder Force), Malik’s understanding parole officer and the one person he has reached out to, a determined lawman (Rory Cochrane, Antlers) sets out to find the three Khans before it’s too late.
The performances in Encounter are enough to recommend the movie, I think I can safely say that. Even though the film stretches on to nearly two hours, I do feel as if the work that’s being done by Ahmed and especially the two young actors playing his boys is well-formed enough to be worthy of keeping your attention. It’s just the flimsy, also-ran plot that might make you doze off at various points. If you’ve seen a movie like 2016’s Midnight Special, you might be aware of what you’re in for…just on a less ambitious narrative level.