Friday, December 3, 2021

Encounter Review: An Unsettling Look and Feel For This Confusing Story

Release Date: December 3, 2021
Running Time: 99 Minutes
Directed By: Michael Pearce 
Written By: Joe Barton and Michael Pearce
Cast: Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal “The Night Of”), Octavia Spencer (The Help, Hidden Figures), Rory Cochrane (Argo, Hostiles), Janina Gavankar (The Way Back, “The Morning Show”), Lucian-River Chauhan (“Heartland,” “Gabby Duran & the Unsittables”) and Aditya Geddada

Desperate to save his two young sons, Jay and Bobby, from a mysterious threat, decorated Marine Malik Khan (Riz Ahmed) packs them in a car and sets off on a perilous journey across the western U.S. But while racing toward a secret military base in Nevada that may hold the key to safety, the trio encounters danger at every turn. Staying one step ahead of a group of government agents, Malik and the boys find themselves bonding in unexpected ways. As their relentless pursuers close in, and with time quickly running out, each of them must confront hard truths about the world, forcing Jay and Bobby to leave their childhoods behind. A gripping story of a father’s mission to keep his children safe at all costs, ENCOUNTER is at once a riveting thriller and a powerful drama about a family dealing with a seemingly unstoppable enemy.

Encounter has a definite style that evokes a classic feel.  I liked the older style sound and special effects that felt like a blast from the past.  And this was accentuated by a chromatic tint to some of the footage.  And similar to another movie this year (the interesting but unfulfilling Mosquito State), encounter zooms in on insects to give them an otherworldly feel.  The whole setup makes this feel like a film from the 80s or 90s, one that both looked to space for strange occurrences while acknowledging that those can occur down here on Earth.  But that insect theme permeates the whole film, as there are plenty of instances with insects being used to show the danger in the situation.  If you are not a fan of bugs, stay away from this one. 

And despite the very solid start and unsettling tone, the film just did not keep my interest.  Riz Ahmed is an amazing actor, and his performance is solid, but the film just did not have enough going on.  Part of this is the fact that you are questioning throughout what is real and what is not, which leads to some unsettling build up without any payoff.  Often you are wondering what you just saw.  The film tries to touch on aspects of mental health and PTSD, but they just did not resonate with me.  And although Octavia Spencer gets top billing in this film, she has a very limited appearance.  I was expecting more exposure from her, and she plays a key role, but ultimately this is a film about Riz Ahmed and the two kids.  Speaking of the kids, they are believable with a very good performance by the older of the two.  

And ultimately your enjoyment of the film will depend on how much you like the strange imagery and slow story.  There is some really great cinematography and use of old school effects to evoke some classic science fiction; sand some really great imagery to accompany it.  I thought that the end scene specifically had a clever setup to do just that.  But ultimately, this film feels like it has all the parts but just doesn't come together.  

Encounter has great imagery and a classic horror / scifi feel, but its slow and confusing story might make you avoid this meetup until its available to stream.  

Rent it.

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Encounter is playing in select theaters on December 3, 2021 and on Amazon Prime on December 10, 2021.  For showtimes, click here.

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