Michael Pearce’s Encounter is a psychological thriller film that stars Riz Ahmed in the lead role. The opening sequence of the film establishes that a meteor from outer space hit the planet Earth. The meteor brings extraterrestrial mind-controlling microorganisms that infect the host and manipulate their actions. At the center of the chaos is a father, Malik Khan, who kidnaps his kids to protect them from alien parasites. But are there really any aliens, or is it Malik’s delusion? Let’s dig deeper.
‘Encounter’ Plot Summary
Malik Khan, a 38-year old ex-US Marine, believes that he is on a secret mission to stop the parasitic aliens from infecting humanity. He wakes up in a motel room and observes insects peeping out from a crack in the wall. Malik quickly packs up his bag, containing a gun and bug repellant spray. Because of his secret mission, Malik hasn’t seen his two sons, Jay and Bobby, for two years. The two kids live with their mother, Piya, and stepfather, Dylan.
As Encounter begins, Jay reads Malik’s letter and misses his presence. However, soon after, Malik breaks into the house and locks Piya and Bobby in the garage. Malik then convinces Jay and Bobby to run away with him. During the journey, a police officer stops and finds an unauthorized firearm on him. Malik observes microorganisms moving inside the officer’s pupil and believes he has been infected with aliens. He attacks the officer with the butt of the gun and runs away.
Later, Malik reveals to his frightened kids that their mother, Piya, has been infected with a parasitic alien. And he is trying to protect them from non-terrestrial microorganisms that have attacked Earth. He even informs them that he is taking them to a special base in Groom Lake, where scientists are trying to find a cure for the alien attack.
However, except for Malik, no one can see the non-terrestrial microorganisms, and Jay suspects that his father has a mental health condition. In the meantime, Malik’s parole officer, Hattie Hayes, finds out about the kid’s abduction and informs the FBI Child Abduction officers. The officers consider Malik a family annihilator and prepare a team to hunt him down.
Major Spoilers Ahead
Who was Malik Khan? Were The Aliens Real?
Malik Khan was a staff sergeant in the Marine Raider Unit. He did ten tours, and then was court-martialed for beating up his captain. Malik’s parole officer, Hattie Hayes, told the FBI that Malik grew up in foster care and had a conflicted childhood. It later became the reason for his uncontrollable anger and psychotic behavior. Malik was in prison for two years and thus couldn’t meet his kids.
However, when he came out, he made up a story about aliens to meet his kids again. Hattie met Malik’s marine buddy, Raul, who showed her some eerie images that Malik had sent him. Hattie surmised that due to his PTSD and traumatic childhood, Malik might be suffering from an undiagnosed psychotic disorder.
At the end of Encounter, it was explained that Malik was suffering from tactile hallucinations, or formication. He created a narrative about an alien attack in his mind because he was visually hallucinating insects. Malik believed that these microorganisms would harm his kids. Being raised in foster care, Malik had become extra protective of his kids, and hence, to save them from alien attack, Malik kidnapped Jay and Bobby.
‘Encounter’ Ending, Explained
Special Agent Shepard West and his team began their manhunt for Malik Khan. While on the road, Malik met with an accident in which his car tire got punctured. On their way to Las Lunas, Malik spotted an old cabin in Vulture, Nevada. He broke into the house to steal their car when an older adult fired a shotgun at him. Malik hit the man on the head and stole his car to run away.
Jay drove his father and brother to the abandoned mining city of Las Lunas, where the family rested for the night. In the morning, Jay went out to bring medicine for his father and, through the radio, discovered that the father had lied about his two years of secret mission. In reality, he served two years in Leavenworth prison. As the new revelations hit Jay, he confronted his father. At that moment, the old man’s sons, Dwight and Kurt, arrived at the mining city and captured Bobby.
Though Malik saved Bobby and Jay and handcuffed Dwight and Kurt, the whole incident made him realize that he was a danger to his own kids. Hence, after the attack, Malik contacted the police and dropped his kids at a restaurant so that they could return safely to Piya. Malik continued his journey to the secret base in Groom Lake.
While on his way to Groom Lake, Malik spotted police vehicles and helicopters following him. He even discovered Jay in the back seat of the car, hiding himself with a blanket. Even at this juncture, Malik didn’t give up his hunt for aliens and tried to trick the cops. After a massive chase and run sequence, the police cars finally surrounded Malik and Jay.
Malik ordered Jay to get out of the car for his safety. But Jay knew that his father would bring doom upon him and would probably get hit in a gunfight with the police. In an emotional state, Malik blamed himself for being a careless father who put his kids in danger. But Jay understood his father’s illness and thus didn’t blame him for his reckless act. Finally, Jay took the gun from Malik so that he didn’t hurt himself or anyone else.
As soon as Jay spotted an officer approaching the car to harm Malik, he ran out of the vehicle and pointed a gun at the officer. Malik panicked and came out of the vehicle to save Jay. Malik convinced Jay that the officer wouldn’t shoot him, and after a thrilling moment, Jay finally dropped the gun and hugged his father.
The lights from the helicopter created a spotlight on Jay and Malik. The shot was visually designed in a way that symbolized the presence of a UFO above them. Jay even looked at the helicopter for a moment, because in his heart, he believed that his father saved him from the aliens.
Malik would be admitted to a psychiatric facility after the whole incident. And if he gets cured of his mental disorder, he will be able to meet Jay and Bobby again. After all, the entire narrative was Malik’s pursuit of spending time with his kids.
Encounter is a 2021 psychological thriller film directed by Michael Pearce. It is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.