#TIFF21: “ENCOUNTER” REVIEW
Review by David Baldwin
Decorated Marine Malik Khan (Riz Ahmed) has been living off the grid, studying a parasitic threat that could put all of humanity in danger. Fearing for their safety, Khan kidnaps his two children from the home of his ex-wife and takes them on a road trip to find the cure. With the authorities in hot pursuit and general skepticism abounding, Khan must stay a step ahead in order to save his children’s lives.
ENCOUNTER is emotionally resonant and poignant in its exploration of the lengths a parent will go to in order to keep their children safe while adding emphasis to the plight of veterans suffering from mental illness and PTSD from their time at war. The Film moves at a consistent clip, knowing just when to flip the switch between an intimate Character Drama and an anxiety-ridden Thriller. Sometimes it jumps between both styles in a matter of seconds. Though I never imagined Ahmed in a fatherly role before, he soars here and really builds on his previous work depicting the ticks and peculiarities of a man facing a crisis. His chemistry with both children, especially Lucian-River Chauhan, is rich and feels lived-in. He knows he is making up for lost time and really hones-in on that heroism that all young children believe their fathers imbue. Above all else, Ahmed’s work here is intensely captivating and suggests this past year’s Oscar nomination will not be his last.
Where ENCOUNTER falters for me is how Director Michael Pearce (last at TIFF with Beast in 2017) reveals his cards explaining what is going on. It comes far too early in the picture, and genuinely throws off the rhythm and enigmatic nature of everything that follows. What was initially riveting and mysterious becomes stale all too quickly. The power of the reveal would have landed substantially stronger had it been unveiled much later on. Spelling it all out so quickly does a disservice to Ahmed’s performance, as well as the supporting turns from the likes of Oscar winner Octavia Spencer and Rory Cochrane. While I would not call the Film disappointing by any stretch, I feel like ENCOUNTER might be a bit of a letdown for anyone expecting a very different kind of movie.
ENCOUNTER screens at TIFF ’21:
Fri, Sep 10 Princess of Wales 8:45 PM
Sat, Sep 11 digital TIFF Bell Lightbox 7:00 PM
Sat, Sep 11 West Island Open Air Cinema at Ontario Place 9:00 PM
Tue, Sep 14 digital TIFF Bell Lightbox 7:00 PM