Marine, Malik Khan (Riz AhmedSound of Metal) goes on a rescue mission to save his two young sons from a mysterious threat. As their journey takes them in increasingly dangerous directions, the boys will need to leave their childhoods behind.

Encounter starts as a sci-fi thriller in which the future of humanity is at stake by an invasion of body snatchers. An intriguing premise with equally frightening visuals and an ominous score by Jed Kurzel. But Joe Barton & Michael Pearce‘s story switches up the tone of the movie, turning it into a psychological drama in which parenting and PTSD take centre stage.

Casting Riz Ahmed as the lead is a safe bet, as this man has proven plenty of times before. Watching him play opposite two child actors is rather new, but Lucian-River Chauhan (who plays his eldest son, Jay) does a phenomenal job to keep up with the Oscar-nominated actor. There’s a lot of natural chemistry between the two actors that obviously helps to believe the struggle Jay is being put through while watching his father lose sense of what’s real and what isn’t.

Personally, I had a bit of trouble adapting to the shift in tone as quickly as the movie forces it upon you. You’re meant to believe Malik and his conspiracy theory, because we witness a lot of elements through his eyes. It’s not easy to suddenly let go of that, and I believe that’s exactly what Barton & Pearce were aiming for, as it makes you relate to the two sons who see their father as their hero turn into someone they no longer recognise.

Michael Pearce, who also directed Encounter, shows a lot of confidence in his filmmaking skills, and it often felt as if I was watching one of Denis Villeneuve‘s earlier films (think Sicario). The movie has a lot of heart, but also a ton of violence that sometimes pulls you out of what’s really right there in front of you, a story about letting go of what you believe and realising people don’t always change for the better.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Amazon Studios will release ENCOUNTER in theaters December 3, 2021 and on Prime Video December 10, 2021

Reviewed December 2, 2021 (screener provided by Prime Video). Rating: R. Running time: 108 min. 

PRODUCTION: An Amazon Studios release of an Amazon Studios, Automatik Entertainment, Big Indie Pictures, Film4 & RAW production. Producers: Dimitri Doganis, Derrin Schlesinger & Piers Vellacott. Executive Producers: Daniel Battsek, Fred Berger, Kate Churchill, Jenny Hinkey, Zander Levy, Ollie Madden & Julia Oh. 

CREW: Director: Michael Pearce. Writers: Joe Barton & Michael Pearce. Editing: Maya Maffioli. Cinematography: Benjamin Kracun. Music: Jed Kurzel.

CAST: Riz Ahmed, Octavia Spencer, Lucian-River Chauhan, Additya Geddada, Janina Gavankar, Rory Cochrane, Keith Szarabajka, Shane McRae, Brennan Keel Cook & Antonio Jaramillo.

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