Encounter (15) |Close-Up Film Review

Dir. Michael Pearce, UK/US, 2021, 108 mins

Cast:  Riz Ahmed, Lucian-River Chauhan, Aditya Geddada, Octavia Spencer

Review by Carol Allen

Earth has been invaded by aliens hiding in insects, which then get into the human body.  War veteran Malik Khan (Riz Ahmed) is one of the few people who know this.  And he also knows his ex-wife has been infected.  So under cover of darkness he abducts his two young sons and goes on the run to protect them.

That is what we are led to believe for the first part of the film.  But then, when Malik’s violent and disturbed past is revealed as the police are pursuing him. we realise that all is not what it seems and the children could be at risk from their war traumatised and unstable father.

Though written and directed by British film makers, respectively Joe Barton and Michael Pearce, the story is set in America and has to be really.   Its frequent violence and particularly gunplay just could not happen in a country which was not in love with the firearm.  And much of it is shot in some of the country’s ugliest bits – a derelict former mining village, the impressive but bleak Nevada desert and the ubiquitous fast food diners. 

Ahmed is appropriately nervy and unpredictable as Malik and Lucian-River Chauhan and Aditya Geddada as his two children give beautifully believable performances, particularly Chauhan as the older boy, who finds himself ultimately in the position of looking after his father, rather than the other way round.  

There’s not a lot of female input in the film.  Janina Gavankar as the boys’ worried mother has little to do, though Octavia Spencer as Malik’s support worker, trying to restrain the excesses of the system, makes an impact as the most empathetic of Malik’s pursuers.