What starts out as a “Bug”-type science fiction film slowly transitions into something else entirely. Without spoiling what’s going on here, I’ll says “Encounter” is at its core an emotional father and son’s road trip thriller. Writer/director Michael Pearce plays with genre, starting off as a science-fictiaon-virus-type thriller that slowly morphs into an intense road trip. Pearce (“Beast”) will have your skin crawling in some scenes and your eyes flooding in others. The way he manipulates genres, and the audience, is a risky direction, but it has the ultimate payoff.
It’s the clever writing and intensity of Ahmed that allow this unusual film to deliver such an emotional impact. Ahmed’s performance here stands out among the year’s best. He delivers the emotion that was lacking in last year’s “Sound of Metal.” Ahmed juggles a character with almost dual personalities and heads into dark places, all under the guise of fatherhood.
It’s the clever writing and intensity of Ahmed that allow this unusual film to deliver such an emotional impact. Ahmed’s performance here stands out among the year's best.
The film also stars Octavia Spencer in a limited but effective supporting role. She pops up halfway through the film, adding another layer to the evolving story. Spencer functions as a calming presence for the audience as the truth of this complicated story starts to reveal itself. The less you know about “Encounter,” the better the “switch” element will work and provide a greater emotional impact.
“Encounter” is arguably one of the best films of the year, I saw arguably, because it won’t work for everyone. Flirting with the bait-and-switch concept is dangerous, some viewers don’t like to be tricked into watching something they didn’t think they were paying for. In this case I think most will get far more out of what Encounter is really about.
Boasting one of the best performances of the year and a surprisingly positive example of when "Bait & Switch" can work.