Part Sci-Fi and part family drama, Encounter is impressive in its bravery and its performances, though the script lacks the originality and flair to make it reach true greatness.
Written by Becca Johnson
Starring Riz Ahmed as a decorated Marine, Encounter tells the story of a Father who takes his two sons away from their Mother on a road trip, as he believes their Mother has a sickness caused by an inhuman threat.
2020 was Riz Ahmed's year, with extremely successful performances in Sound of Metal and Mogul Mowgli; Encounter continues that streak. Ahmed's character Malik is a very complex individual, who not only wishes to protect his sons from an apparent inhuman threat but also battles with PTSD from his time in the Marine's, and struggles with his ex-wife's relationship. Ahmed captures every emotion perfectly, putting forward a heart wrenching performance. Lucian-River Mirage Chauhan and Aditya Geddada, who play Malik's two young sons, are stars in the making. They seemed to perfectly understand the mature material, and put forward performances that have great chemistry not just with each other but with their Father. Octavia Spencer was also great as Hattie, Malik's parole officer, ensuring he stays out of harms way and begging for him to be understood.
Where Encounter flourishes is within its Father-Son relationship depiction. The script does well not only to show the difficulty a military Father has with bonding with his children who he rarely sees, but the children's difficulties bonding with him. As happy as they are to see their Father, its clear they don't fully trust him and begin to miss the comfort of home as he takes them on a tiring journey that they struggle to believe in.
On the flip-side, the use of Sci-Fi was a little lacklustre. Encounter is a Sci-Fi family drama hybrid that doesn't fully commit to either genre, making it feel underwhelming and tiresome at times. There are undeniably plenty of scenes that pack an emotional punch, lovely visuals and a journey that the audience care about, but the story needed its screws tightened in places.
Audiences will be divided on the movies portrayal of PTSD. It oftens feel like the script is villainizing it, as Malik puts his children in danger and fails to see the distress he is causing. However, its an important topic to shed light on, and was at times handled very well. This one is down to audience interpretation, but Malik is unfortunately demonised often throughout the movies runtime.
Encounter is a movie full to the brim with intensity, not just from its performances but its plot also. The inhuman threat adds a terrifying edge and sense of urgency to the story, making every interaction between characters nerve-racking through fear of them having the illness. The movie is fast paced from the get-go, with only a few slower scenes filtered throughout the second act. Ahmed's performance definitely adds to the immediacy as he rushes to get his children to safety, with every movement careful and calculated yet quick and swift.
Overall, Encounter is a thrilling ride that combines family drama and science fiction to create a fast paced journey with an emotional climax and terrific final scene. The performances were stellar, not just from star Riz Ahmed but from the two young actors playing his sons. The exploration of PTSD may not have been handled perfectly at all times, but its nonetheless an important theme to explore. The science fiction was a little lacklustre at times, and if the script fully committed to just one of its genres it would've been a little less predictable and formulaic. However, a movie worth watching can be found in Encounter.