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Riz Ahmed deserves better than Encounter

Riz Ahmed returns to the screen following his Oscar Nomination for last year's Sound Of Metal in the sci-fi drama Encounter from Amazon Studios. Michael Pearce helms the film, which follows the journey of Malik Khan (Ahmed), a decorated Marine who goes on a rescue mission to save his two young sons, Jay (Lucian-River Chauhan) and Bobby (Aditya Geddada) from a mysterious threat. As the Khan’s family journey takes them into increasingly dangerous directions, the boys will need to leave their childhoods behind.

Meanwhile, Malik has to deal with his ex-wife, Piya (Janina Gavankar), whose body he believes is contaminated by an extraterrestrial virus, and local police and his caring parole officer Hattie (Octavia Spencer). Is there a mysterious threat, or is everything in Malik's mind?

After a history of shorts, Michael Pearce made his directorial debut with 2017's Beast, which he also wrote. Pearce collaborates with writer Joe Barton for the script of his sophomore effort. In addition, Pearce has an Oscar winner and an Oscar Nominee at his disposal. So how does the film measure up? Sadly not well by any means. In interviews, Pearce mentioned that he intended to combine Paris, Texas and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The marketing campaign for Encounter leads us to believe that the film is about aliens, and in a sense, it is, but not in the way you would think.

I will point out right away that if you want some big-budget effects spectacle, then prepare yourself for a letdown. Encounter has more in common with Paris, Texas than Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The film is a slow burn that goes into PTSD, mental illness, and the importance of a father in a child's life. I will credit Riz for giving another strong performance, and the boys who play his sons are also good. However, the good ends there. Octavia Spencer is on autopilot in her brief role, while the gorgeous Janina Gavankar has her talents go to waste.

Fans of Riz Ahmed may find something to enjoy, but everyone else should steer clear.

Final Grade: D+

Encounter is available to stream on Amazon now.


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