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Riz Ahmed seems to have reversed his stance on extraterrestrial beings after his alliance with Riot didn't end so well in 2018's Venom. The Oscar-winning actor goes from trying to contact alien life to running away from it in the first trailer for Amazon Prime Video's Encounter. The sci-fi thriller stars Ahmed as a seasoned Marine trying to protect his two sons from an inhuman threat (more of an infection, really) by taking them on a dangerous road trip that puts more than just home in the rear-view mirror.
Directed and co-written by Michael Pearce (2017's Beast), and costarring Academy Award-winner Octavia Spencer, the film was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival in September and currently holds a 63 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Tomris Laffly of Variety praised Encounter's leading man in their review, writing that the Rogue One star "disappears inside the part of a disturbed man confronted by his demons, delivering an increasingly intimidating performance that elevates the material."
Laffly concluded that "the vigor in which the film’s heart-wrenching finale aims at one’s tear ducts feels a little aggressive, even shameless. But Encounter manages to get away with it somehow, becoming a rare kind of movie that believes in healing and second chances even in the face of crushing disappointment. It’s deceptively simple yet deeply philosophical stuff, channeled by first-rate genre filmmaking."
Watch the trailer below:
Speaking with Deadline last month, Pearce — who wrote the screenplay alongside Joe Barton (Extinction) — explained that while "the film plays with some cosmic themes," he wanted to ground it with his actors. "I knew that the main spectacle of the film had to be the performances," he said. "And so, when Riz got hold of the script and pitched for it, it was a lightbulb moment — I just thought, ‘I could buy him as a Marine.’ He’s got that laser focus. He’s a sweet guy, but there’s also a toughness that he hides, but it’s there. A kind of grit and fortitude.”
“As Michael said, there aren’t a lot scripts that walk their line between character portrait and genre piece, but there aren’t a lot of directors that can walk that line either, and he did it with such command in Beast," added Ahmed. "I mean, he’s not exaggerating when he says I pitched for it – I stalked him!”
Encounter opens in theaters Friday, Dec. 3 before making its way to Amazon Prime Video the following Friday, Dec. 10.
Amazon scooped up the global rights in July of 2020 when it was still titled Invasion. The decision to change the name may have come down to the fact that streaming rival Apple TV+ had its own alien-centric project — also titled Invasion — slated for release in fall 2021. Encounter is just as fitting, a truncated version of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which not only refers to a Spielberg classic, but also to a general term used for human run-ins with otherworldly objects and beings.