Review of the meeting | Film – Empire
In the Nevada desert, former Marine Malik (Riz Ahmed) tries to save his two young sons from an alien invasion in which parasites invade people’s brains. But is it the demons that Malik fights?
In 2017, British filmmaker Michael Pearce made a stunning feature debut with Beast, a gothic fairy tale in Jersey about a young woman who falls in love with a mysterious stranger as a series of murders rock her isolated community. Its follow-up to bigger budget and in the United States Meet Surprisingly follows a more traditional narrative – and arguably takes less risk – but still leaves a mark.
Pearce is a filmmaker adept at mixing the beautiful and the horrible, as evidenced by the film’s striking opening sequence. A bright meteor crosses the night sky and hits the Earth; a sharp switch from long shot to intense macro photography shows insects from the forest floor ingesting the resulting debris, one of which is then devoured by a mosquito which then infects a human with a burrowing bug – with devastating consequences.
It doesn’t take long before the film turns from sci-fi to psychological drama.
It’s a skillful implementation of the film’s premise and its concerns with both the otherworld and the intimately messy human, as seen through the experiences of troubled protagonist Malik Khan (Riz Ahmed). Former Marine Malik has learned of the existence of this alien threat and decides to save his estranged sons, Jay, ten (Lucian-River Chauhan) and Bobby, eight (Aditya Geddada). Mounting an overnight rescue mission from their mother’s California home, the three embark on a cross-country journey to the supposed safety of a military base in Nevada.
But Malik – with his nightmares, nervous demeanor, short-term temper – is clearly less than trustworthy, and it doesn’t take long before the film turns from sci-fi to psychological drama. Pearce and co-writer Joe Barton (TV Giri / Haji) are less interested in narrative ambiguity and more in exploring the effect of prolonged trauma on a previously sane mind. Ahmed has an innate ability to tap into his character’s deepest emotional struggles without ever coming to the surface too much. We think he’s a loving dad, a well-meaning man, even though he pulls his kids through the wilderness without even a toothbrush. Chauhan touches as a loyal eldest son Jay, for whom this journey marks the end of childhood innocence.
An evocative camera by Benjamin Kracun (who also Beast and Promising young woman) contrasts the anonymous and alien expanse of the desert with the environment of the car’s pressure cooker. The color scheme evolves from woozy alien greens to warning reds to faded yellows, while Paul Davies’ excellent sound design intensifies everyday noises – the purr of a supermarket freezer, the hum of traffic – before rolling out. get back to normal. Everything is subtle and disorienting, until a disappointing and conventional confrontation wreaks havoc Hollywood-style in the film’s final moments.
While Michael Pearce’s second feature doesn’t deliver quite the same stunt as his feature debut Beast, it demonstrates the same mastery of the cinematic art and another incredible performance from Riz Ahmed.