Encounter featured

TIFF Review: ‘Encounter’ Takes the Premise of an Alien Invasion and Uses It to Shine a Light on Private Battles

September 16, 2021Ben MK

From Invasion of the Body Snatchers to Independence Day, alien invasion movies have long been a staple of Hollywood cinema, a trend that continues to this day with such films as Edge of Tomorrow, Annihilation and A Quiet Place. But just as moviegoers' sensibilities have evolved, so too has the genre evolved to tackle more complex narratives and themes. And with Encounter, director Michael Pearce does just that — using a familiar premise centering on the arrival of hostile lifeforms from beyond our planet to tell a story that's really about mental health and family bonds.

The film begins with an ominous sight — an asteroid hurtling toward Earth — and before long we're introduced to Malik Khan (Riz Ahmed), a troubled former Special Forces Marine who's experienced the horrors of war firsthand and is now facing a new and terrifying threat: non-terrestrial microorganisms that are using human beings as hosts. Believing that his ex-wife Priya (Janina Gavankar) has become infected, Malik takes his 10-year-old son Jay (Lucian-River Chauhan) and 8-year-old son Bobby (Aditya Geddada), and together they embark on a road trip from California to Nevada. Little does Malik realize, however, that his actions have garnered the attention of Special Agent Shepard West (Rory Cochrane) and the FBI, who are fearful of Maik's children's safety given his history of violence and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Could Malik be imagining the dangerous alien entities that have come to overtake our planet? Or are the authorities and his parole officer (Octavia Spencer) simply too blind to see the real threat facing them? As Encounter progresses, the answer becomes clear. But for viewers, the result shines a light on battles that unfold on a much more personal level, rather than being just another tale of humanity's fight for survival as a species.

Encounter screens under the Special Presentations programme at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival. Its runtime is 1 hr. 48 min.

You May Also Like