Film Review: Foe | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Saturday, December 9th, 2023  


Studio: Amazon MGM Studios
Director: Garth Davis

Oct 01, 2023 Web Exclusive
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Foe must be what happens when you build a movie around a plot twist. It’s the only way to explain how this soft science-fiction story goes from dreadfully boring to painfully baffling within its last twenty minutes. The worst part is that the film completely wastes its semi-interesting concept and two steady performances.

Set in the late 20th century, after the Earth has been strongly affected by mass droughts and global warming, Foe follows Hen (Saoirse Ronan) and Junior (Paul Mescal), a married couple living in the midwestern United States. The two lead a simple life, living in an isolated house, working during the day and spending all their free time with one another. It’s clear that they haven’t interacted with many people meaningfully for a long time–they’re both taken aback when Terrence (Aaron Pierre) shows up at their door.

Their habitual routine grinds to a halt when Terrence explains that Junior has been selected to travel on a space station in search of alternate habitable planets. He also emphasizes that Junior has no choice in the matter and compares his situation to the military draft.

From here, the film becomes a portrait of a crumbling marriage as Hen and Junior face their new reality and the ever-nearing prospect of Junior’s departure. But that’s not all. 45 minutes into the film, a major plot line begins when Terrence tells Hen and Junior that his company will create an AI replica of Junior to keep Hen company when he’s gone. The physical and psychological tests associated with creating this creature further increase the tension between the central characters.

If that sounds like a lot to balance within a 110-minute film; that’s because it is. Foe is completely overstuffed, attempting to be a portrait of a relationship, a character study and a science-fiction story simultaneously. While these elements constantly interact with one another–particularly during the film’s second half, when Junior’s tests push him to the brink–they never mesh in a fulfilling way. Instead, the film’s dialogue is aimless and confusing, with characters feeling like broken records because they repeatedly have the same conversations and fights.

Of course, once the plot twist is revealed, the story’s holes and oddly-paced narrative beats begin to make sense–they were all manufactured to make the 180-degree turn possible. The problem is that the twist isn’t even creative or fulfilling. It’s rushed, odd and a complete disruption to the narrative that the film spent hours setting up, making it seem even more purposeless. Sure, the twist may be surprising and bring some life into this dead-on-action flick, but it’s never a good sign when the audience is laughing at what is supposed to be a jaw-dropping reveal.

Regardless of Foe’s flaws, Ronan and Mescal do a fantastic job with the material they have. Their relationship does feel lived-in, and they animate their characters’ fights as well as they possibly could. It’s a shame the movie doesn’t adapt to their massive talents.

Author rating: 4/10

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Average reader rating: 6/10


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