“Encounter” is the type of film that I can almost guarantee will be mismarketed by the studio as an exciting, action-packed sci-fi thriller. It’s not. This story of a decorated Special Forces Marine (Riz Ahmed) who goes on a rescue mission to save his two young children (Aditya Geddada, Lucian-River Chauhan) from mind controlling insects is more of a family road trip gone wrong than an intense nail biter.

Launching with a good hook, director and co-writer Michael Pearce sets up the story with just enough mystery to keep the audience guessing. Things work well when only small bits and pieces are divulged, creating a build up that is designed to hold interest. But the film shows its hand too early, folding every substantial card in the deck. This proves problematic when there’s not a lot of material in the first place, script-wise. The disappointing reveal is a total letdown.

The father / son dynamic is really great, portrayed realistically with top-notch turns from Ahmed and the two boys. Their chemistry is ideal, and it takes a real acting maturity to pull off what Chauhan accomplishes here. The strong performances are the only reason “Encounter” should even be considered to be worth watching. I think there could’ve been a better movie stuck inside somewhere, but this finished product is an unfulfilling experience.

This film was screened for review at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival.

By: Louisa Moore

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