The Amazon Studio encounter is a powerful indictment of our nation’s mental health crisis and our treatment of veterans. The sci-fi promise will draw you to the film, but the intense portrayal of Riz Ahmed will keep you long after the tragic truth has been revealed. Director Michael Pearce, who also wrote the screenplay with Joe Barton, is a follower of this kind of psychological trickery. His allegorical thriller Beast has a similar dreamlike quality that keeps you on your heels and engaged. Barton also has a quality resume that includes episodes of AMC’s criminally underrated humans, and the highly anticipated Extinction consistently writes stories and characters that make actors shine. Although the film winds its way down the middle a bit, Encounter is largely a success due to the compelling performances and thought-provoking themes.
There are pointless and awkward comments about xenophobia and trigger happy cops and militiamen who would have been more effective if it hadn’t been so obtuse. For example, in one violent scene, Phil Collins ‘Against All Odds incongruously plays in the background, perhaps reminding us that the mistakes of the’ 80s contributed to our current problems. As much as Gen X wants to absolve themselves of the mess, we are as guilty as the Baby Boomers who still cling to nostalgia like a well-worn blanket.
Heavy, horned bites with a racist cop patrolling his unofficial sunset town and Ruby Ridge Sovereign Men feel more exploitative than punchy. Yet thanks to Ahmed’s skillful performance, nothing ever swings completely into Echo territory.
What is happening in Encounter?
In the first half of Encounter, Malik appears to be a beloved, if not particularly responsible, parent, desperately trying to protect his children from a growing threat. This is mainly due to an opening sequence edit about microscopic bugs and dangers and a narrowly focused point of view. Everything from an innocent mosquito bite to the menacing buzz of a bug trap is designed to put us at ease and firmly in his headspace.
He stealthily inspects his eyes and everyone he interacts with, looking for wriggling indications of an infection. He is regularly sprayed with an insecticide mist designed to protect him from the multitude of frightening critters that inhabit the Earth. Sadly, his ex-wife and new husband, played by Supernatural’s Misha Collins, are likely already infected, and Malik has no choice but to act aggressively. In the darkness of the night, he breaks in and kidnaps his children, telling them that they are embarking on a great adventure.
His boys are also turned on by their father’s feverish excursion across the country and terrified of his increasingly erratic behavior. At first, they join with their father who is concerned about their mother’s health, pointing out his strange cravings for food giving credit to his worries. However, later young boy Bobby (Aditya Geddada) lashes out at Malik because when the fun of a road trip with his father wears off, he fears for himself, his brother and the parents. with whom he is more connected than his biological father.
Malik’s biased world view centers on his worry and heroic civic duty that kept him away from his children. He is a war hero who gave his life to protect our freedom. Her children, especially her eldest son Jay, played incredibly by young talent Lucian-River Chauhan, need to believe their father is a misunderstood hero. He is invested in the concept of his father as a protector instead of an absent father. Despite Malik’s midnight kidnapping and the promise of a fun shooter mixed with explosions of impatient anger, Jay wants to believe everything his father has told him. As a result, we are invested in its history.
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What’s the twist in Encounter?
Halfway through the movie, it all gets twisted; However, when Malik calls his parole officer, the still excellent but underutilized Octavia Spencer. With her grounded performance and motherly vibe, she is his connection to reality and, as we will soon find out, his only hope for peaceful resolution. Malik did not make another heartbreaking tour of the Middle East, but has been locked up at Leavenworth Penitentiary for the past two years after being convicted of assault and released without honor.
In all likelihood, Malik suffered from an undiagnosed mental illness caused by the stress of war or the genetic makeup that caused the assault. Most of our veterans come back with some form of PTSD, and Encounter demands that the viewer face this reality. Although Malik is a deeply troubled man, he is both recognizable and his story plausible. It should scare everyone. This is not a personal problem but a nationwide scourge that continues unchecked.
Is there a microbial alien invasion?
There is no parasitic aggression caused by an invasion of insects. The truth is more insidious. Instead of a microbial crisis, there is a mental health pandemic. Although we no longer treat our soldiers like outcasts, they are still mistreated. Now this abuse is taking the form of neglect. PTSD and undiagnosed and undertreated mental illnesses continue to affect both our military and the nation as a whole. It is a national pandemic just as dangerous as the COVID crisis. Despite Malik’s research into actual parasitic infections, the only one he faces in Encounter is fictitious.
What is even more tragic is that he inherently understands that he is sick. He hallucinates several times in the film, including when he killed the older man whose boys found him late in Encounter. He is visibly shaken and desperately tries to convince himself that what he is seeing is not real. Once things turn sour, he tries to leave his boys in a restaurant as he flees through the desert for their protection. He knows his delirium is dangerous but is powerless to control it.
Jay sneaks into the car with him to protect the father who should be protecting him. His actions are probably the only thing that saves Malik from certain death in the end. Jay holds up the gun as he clings to the belief that he can save his father. As the illusion crumbles, Jay steps in to protect his father. Fortunately, this act does not result in both his death and Maliks. Instead, Malik hugs his son and surrenders to an uncertain future. Sadly, our current system is ill-equipped to handle the growing influx of patients, and that future is bleak for Malik and others like him.
This makes Encounter’s ending decidedly bleak. Trauma, mental illness and xenophobia make up a messy cocktail of nihilism that screams in a low voice and gunpowder retorts more than screams in the night. Still, Encounter’s ending is heartbreaking as an alien invasion is somehow preferable to what’s actually going on. Malik believes there is a plague raging all over the world, and he’s not entirely wrong. He just doesn’t have the right enemy. Encounter is in theaters and streaming right now on Amazon Prime.
As a TV / Streaming Editor for Signal Horizon, I love to watch and write about genre TV. I grew up with old school slashers, but my real passion is TV and everything weird and ambiguous. When I don’t look and write on my favorite movies and series, I introduce my family to the wonderful world of science fiction, fantasy and horror. My only regret, there is not enough time in the day to watch everything.
Amazon Studio Dating Ending Explained – Is There An Alien Invasion? first appeared in Signal Horizon magazine.