Encounter opens with a meteor crashing down to earth. Beautiful establishing shots are contrasted with unsettling close-ups of bugs that have seemingly come from the alien rock. Eerie music plays backdrop to crunching and buzzing sound effects that make your skin crawl.
Then, a horrifying sequence shows a mosquito finding its next victim. You watch as it deposits a parasite into the bloodstream and the camera follows it as it swims through the person’s body before exploding and releasing its toxins. It’s a mesmerising but uncomfortable visual and it sets the scene for the film well.
The meteor seems to have gone largely unnoticed by everyone. Well, everyone except for Malik Khan (Riz Ahmed). The ex-military dad of two is prepared for the alien bugs. He is prepared for what is coming. The film follows Malik after he saves his children from their infected mother and stepfather. He takes them on a road trip through the US and works to keep them safe. Or, that’s what we’re told at least.
Encounter takes you on a thrilling journey as it plays with perception and truth. It is everything you wouldn’t expect the film to be and manages to hold tight to your attention throughout.
It’s a film that uses an interesting story to talk about wider issues – issues that if I mention will ruin the film. It’s best to watch Encounter without knowing much about it as it makes the payoff far more impactful.
Ahmed is, as always, incredible, but Lucian-River Chauhan steals the show as Malik’s son Jay. He conveys true vulnerability in a way that you don’t always get from young actors. You can see Jay processing what is going with his father and it feels very close to what the reality would be.
Aditya Geddada is also fantastic as Jays younger brother Bobby. He provides much needed comic relief throughout but still manages to get deep when he needs to.
It is available to stream on Prime Video now.
This film was watched as a part of the London Film Festival.
Feature Image credit: the Hollywood Reporter.