What is the story about?
Malik, a former Marine, breaks into the house of his ex-wife Piya and her current husband Dylan, and picks up his sons Jay and Bobby, and leaves on a road trip in the middle of the night, fearing an alien invasion. As all three drive across states with law enforcement authorities in hot pursuit, Jay and Bobby wonder whether their father's fears are real, or he has other demons of his own to face.
Hollywood has aced the "alien invasion" thriller for years now, and you wonder at the beginning what new angle Encounter can bring into the picture. But Michael Pierce's film is a different beast altogether. Right from its opening sequence, the film primes you for a Malignant-style body-snatching thriller. However, instead of building a predictable narrative on this, Pierce chooses to weave this into the tapestry of a road film. The familiar emotional beats are all there: a father who has been estranged from his kids for quite some time, two siblings who are learning to live with a different father, and a road trip that brings all these people together. But it's how Pierce, together with its leads, sells this that becomes the highlight. Part-bonding drama, part-kidnapping thriller and part-alien invasion thriller, Encounter is a remarkable little film that throws a few surprises along the way. The writing could have been better, and there are a few sequences which act as speedbreakers, but overall, this is a decent emotional thriller.
Riz Ahmed holds this film together as Malik, and the screenplay is structured in such a way that you never know whether his fears about aliens are real or not. Lucian River-Chauhan and Aditya Geddada are terrific as Malik's sons Jay and Bobby, and the sequences between all three are the standout moments in the film. Octavia Spencer has an underdeveloped role as Hattie Hayes, a parole officer, but she is all right in the role. The rest of the cast is okay.
Music & Other Departments
Benjamin Kracun's cinematography is stunning, and his shots of the American desert are terrific. Jed Kurzel's score is haunting.
The chemistry between Malik and his sons is what keeps this story afloat.
The writing could have been better in a few sequences.
Did I enjoy it?
Do I recommend it?
Yes. This is good enough for a watch, if you're a fan of well-acted emotional thrillers.