Foe review: "Paul Mescal delivers a powerful performance in a twisty sci-fi drama"

(Image: © Amazon Studios)

GamesRadar+ Verdict

Thoughtful, provocative and powerfully acted, Foe is a cunning drama that you’ll want to puzzle over.

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Total Film and SFX are hosting a special reader screening of Foe, including a Q&A with director Garth Davis. The screening will take place on Wednesday 11 October in a Central London location; drinks and canapes will be provided! For your chance to see Foe before release, RSVP here:

"Why does the unknown have to be a burden?" asks Terrance (Aaron Pierre, Brother, The Underground Railroad), the handsome government operative who arrives at the Midwest farmhouse home of Henrietta (Saoirse Ronan) and Junior (Paul Mescal).

It’s 2065, and Junior has been selected (or conscripted) to try out for off-world habitation as part of a climate-migration programme. The planet is dying, and humanity is looking for a way off this rock before the dust storms kill us all. So far, so Interstellar

Yet Foe is less interested in what lies beyond than in tensions beneath the surface. For large stretches, the only overt sign of advancement is Terrance’s slick, DeLorean-like car. But it turns out that this future world is also marked by the development of ‘human substitutes’. 

Much to the couple’s initial horror, Terrance suggests Junior’s protracted two-year absence in space will be eased by the arrival of an exact AI copy. "We set out to create consciousness," he beams, seemingly unconcerned by the moral implications. 

Adapted from Iain Reid’s novel by the author himself and director Garth Davis (Lion), this three-hander is at heart a relationship portrait, in which Hen and Junior must deal with issues of jealousy. Meanwhile, Terrance’s presence - like an on-tap marriage counsellor - becomes increasingly unsettling. Ronan and Mescal make for a convincing, volatile couple, although it’s Pierre’s mysterious interloper who steals it. 

Admittedly, the film’s oddly paced, elliptical middle section may leave you scratching your head. But then the twisty third act pulls it all together, sending shivers down the spine.

Foe is released in US cinemas on October 6 and in UK cinemas on October 20. 

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Freelance writer

James Mottram is a freelance film journalist, author of books that dive deep into films like Die Hard and Tenet, and a regular guest on the Total Film podcast. You'll find his writings on GamesRadar+ and Total Film, and in newspapers and magazines from across the world like The Times, The Independent, The i, Metro, The National, Marie Claire, and MindFood.