Finch

On AppleTv+ Nov. 5

THE PLOT:

In the not-too-distant future, Finch (Tom Hanks) is struggling to survive a harsh world. A devastating solar flare rendered Earth’s ozone layer almost useless. Finch can only forage for food and supplies in a suit that will protect him from the intense sun and radiation. Finch also has a canine companion, Goodyear, who he treasures above all else.

Realizing that he is slowly dying of radiation, coupled with the fact that the storms created from this hostile, arid region are dangerously intense – Finch decides to head west to San Francisco, but before he can embark upon this perilous journey, he builds a robot to protect and care for Goodyear.

For Jeff-the-robot, this journey will define the esoteric meanings of family, trust and love.

KENT’S TAKE:

“Finch” is a different kind of sci-fi film. It is part disaster, part environmental, part coming-of-age film, which creates both hurdles and opportunities for the filmmakers.

Finch hunkers down in his tech shop in St. Louis as he forages the city for supplies, all the while avoiding the blistering sun and the hurricane level dust storms that plague the earth. Using his skills as a robotics tech, he creates Jeff with just enough time to “bug out” as several powerful storms are set to converge on what remains of St. Louis.

Jeff is a bright-eyed, automaton who is inquisitive, yet also bound by his programming, creating interesting dichotomies. His hand movements are reminiscent of a fidgety muppet. He is childlike in many ways, but he also learns quickly. Add to this an emotional voice that is not young nor old sounding and Jeff quickly becomes the central focus of the film.

This is a rather effects-heavy film due to both the post-apocalyptic environment, the menacing storms and Jeff. Although the effects are the framework of this film, the heart is the emotional fuel that ignites this story. As Jeff learns, he asks questions and through those answers and Finch’s stories, we discover who Finch is and who Jeff becomes.

Tom Hanks brings his usual cadence to the film – an introspective gravity that helps pace the film and yet, sometimes throws us off balance, keeping us on our toes and attentive. Jeff (voiced by Caleb Landry Jones) is both enchanting and annoying, he makes dangerous mistakes and beautiful connections.

Director Miguel Sapochnik creates a strange yin and yang. It’s like the film “Wall-E” meets the film “Chappie.” This is a post-apocalyptic setting where Finch is struggling to survive, he is dying of radiation poisoning, yet, Jeff is charming and funny – reminding us of the empowerment of learning.

The other warring elements of this film come in the writing. Screenwriters Craig Luck and Ivor Powell bring us a story that sometimes feels as though it is simply a set-up to preach about the environmental future before us wrapped in a cocoon of special effects. Yet, as this journey unfolds, viewers come to discover that they really do care about Finch, Jeff and Goodyear – especially Jeff and Goodyear’s relationship.

Although Goodyear cares about Jeff on an instinctual level – he feeds and plays with him, Jeff longs for acceptance, something that he only receives late in the film.

As the emotional conclusion resolves, audiences will find a soulful identity has been formed with the characters – a pleasant surprise.

“Finch” is a rather odd film that brings an unusual offering to viewers – a dark, cute, emotional sci-fi film that has as much heart as it does barks.

LYNN’S TAKE:

The Mississippi River is a dust bowl in “Finch,” in a barren post-apocalyptic world where the title character is surviving in an underground shelter in St. Louis. 

That’s a striking visual, as is national treasure Tom Hanks, as the title character, wearing a St. Louis Blues shirt in his cozy confines.

Finch is a resourceful engineer, and although dying of radiation poisoning, indicates he is still hopeful. After all, he has a cute rescue dog named “Goodyear” for companionship and a Wall-E-type roaming helper named Dewey.

With a directive to “protect the dog at all costs,” he builds an intelligent 9-foot robot who names himself Jeff (Caleb Landry Jones), and they learn from each other.

The bonding during a road trip from the ‘Lou to San Francisco in a solar-powered RV – to escape a superstorm – is sweet and sentimental, just one of the surprises of this disarming sci-fi tale co-written by Craig Luck and Ivor Powell, a producer who worked with Ridley Scott on “Alien” and “Blade Runner.”

Sure, there is gloom and doom, indicated by the oppressive heat, and the “I Am Legend” vibe is intentional – but this is an uncommon post-apocalyptical film, not as bombastic as the usual spectacle but conventional, nonetheless. 

One of the most joyous scenes takes place in an abandoned movie theater where they discover a stash of popcorn. Showing Jeff how it pops outdoors (super-quickly) is a delightful reminder of the little things that keep us moving along.

As Jeff evolves from an innocent to an understanding buddy, the motion capture work and vocal styling by actor Caleb Landry Jones is a revelation. Jones has mostly been known for his unusual character roles, a standout in “The Outpost” and memorable in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” but mainly as a ne’er-do-well. He nearly steals the scene from Hanks.

Hanks has worked with animals before – remember “Turner and Hooch”? And of course, has carried a mostly solitary film, too – Oscar nominee for “Cast Away.” But those aren’t these movies, and Hanks displays his typical warmth and earnestness while bringing out the deeper implications of what it means to be one of the last men on earth.

The only other humans are in flashback scenes and we do see another car, but mostly, it’s the three amigos along the way.

Director Miguel Sapochnik, who won two Emmys for directing episodes of “Game of Thrones, keeps it more on the lighter side, but yet shows a practical approach.

The scorched earth scenario is captured well by cinematographer Jo Willems, who did “Free Guy” earlier this year.

Hanks, as always, imbues Finch with a quiet dignity. Nobody is better at playing decent guys and has made a lengthy A-list career because of it.

You could do worse than spending the end times with this guy, and the fun of ‘Finch,” while tinged with sadness, has two non-humans that hold their own with the two-time Oscar winner.