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Amazon Studios’ new sci-fi drama Foe while appearing to be a standalone episode from Charlie Brooker’s Netflix series that features Domnhall Gleeson as a robot human, is not. Inevitably, there will be over lapping storylines in different science fiction projects but that isn’t the only issue with Foe. It’s a solid movie, but has little to offer beyond performances by Oscar nominees Saoirse Ronan and Paul Mescal, who are let down by cliches and undeveloped plot twists and turns that leave us much confused.

Friend or foe? This new Garth Davis directed sci-fi thriller (Lion, Top of the Lake) isn’t just about this question though; we will have many others at its conclusion. Instead of interstellar space travel as depicted in Christopher Nolan’s 2014 film Interstellar this is an on-Earth dystopia. Now it’s really sometime in the future, 2065 more precisely where Junior (Mescal) drinks vintage Pabst Blue Ribbon beer like it is old timey days. To confirm if you are truly an aficionado of beer, those bottles from which he takes sips are truly old school.

That’s what makes him old-fashioned for me,” comments Junior shuffling past all his family pictures hung up in the farmhouse living room where he lives with his wife (Ronan). As Mescal and Ronan have Irish background they might just think that Hen calling his wife for the first time may be “hon” (honey) with an accent. Anyways, both sound American here and instead of saying “Hun”, Mescal says “Hen”. The accents grate.” But Harriet (or Hen), Jr.’s name for her is heard immediately following a disturbing shot of her crying in the shower because someone has come to visit unexpectedly…

Terrance enters next; he’s suave and fast-talking government man who has come to make Junior take a space flight for humanity’s sake. Foe is another Prime Video work, which also produced the highly acclaimed miniseries by Barry Jenkins, The Underground Railroad. He is clearly better suited for Jenkin’s series but he holds his own in Foe as Terrance. Film noir enthusiasts might see this good-looking young man as something of postmodern femme fatale – he comes into Hen and Junior’s life looking dapper and promising but soon enough ulterior motives become clear.

But first, we see Hen and Junior scoff at Terrance’s proposal/game plan. Mescal sort of sips his beer while laughing like Paul Newman used to do in movies such as Cool Hand Luke. A witty bantering couple without kids, Ronan who plays Hen in the movie still maintains an earthiness about her that makes her unique amongst other roles she has played so far. Nonetheless the film devolves into one more sci-fi thriller with tension mounting towards apocalypse while Junior readies himself for crossing the galaxy after visiting Terrance over the next year.

Foe has dreamy cutscenes here and there just like those in the Spanish film Nobody Knows I’m Here on Netflix, but these efforts seem pointless sometimes since we’re left wondering what it was all about. For example, does Junior wake up from a daydream during act two when it appears that Terrence broke into his room trying to choke him?

As you begin to watch the movie, you will first think that Terrance’s character was the intended subject of the title since a kind of unofficial love triangle develops after he moves in with them in order to train Junior for his mission. However, “Foe” could be referring to the human replicant Terrance and his company want to introduce into Hen’s world while Junior saves the world. The human replicant would look and sound exactly like Junior; what’s not to love? But even when there is a big reveal in a head-scratching third act, the story line remains murky. Was Hen in on this scheme all along? Is that why she insists Junior “sleep in the guest room” after we first meet Terrance early on? Who is its replica enemy at last?

Side note: My wife saw Foe in another theater that was said to have been loud enough for sections of viewers who laughed aloud, even though funny parts were absent. Ouch! I watched it in a quieter theatre where people did not even move as credits rolled by. Obviously, there was some reflection by moviegoers on ‘what just happened’ but not like Usual Suspects. With its stunning cinematography shot in Australia however Foe fails through trying too hard, hence wasting excellent actors.

Mescal has a chilling scene with his co-star Pierre about halfway through, which would definitely serve as his oscar submission for awards consideration. But that’s about it, and Ronan isn’t given a whole lot to work with either.

You might just wince when Hen cries out “Why?!” at life’s unfairnesses during her moment of desperation at the end of this film. She deserves better words than these.” And those clichés come into full view as we suffer through an ending sequence that drags on (especially we know how it will unfold as individual characters split apart).

These final plot points could have been done in seconds, but for whatever reason director Davis and co-writer Iain Reid (who also wrote the novel) decide to drag it out for roughly 10 minutes. As Hen puts it: “Why!?”

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