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Finch (2021) – Review: A Pleasantly Straightforward Tale About a Man, His Dog, and a Robot Named Jeff

November 3, 2021

Quick thoughts – Grade – B – Finch is a pleasantly straightforward tale about Tom Hanks embarking on a cross country trip to keep his dog alive. It’s a neat twist on the survival genre, and it offers a little something for everyone

Filmed in 2019, and initially planned for a theatrical release, Finch could easily be mistaken for a pandemic production that found a way to film amidst strict regulations and protocols to keep crews safe. The film is essentially a two men, and a dog show, as Tom Hanks, a dog named Seamus, and Caleb Landry Jones, who performed the motion capture, do all the heavy lifting. As always, Hanks is excellent, and he effortlessly carries the screen, and does a great job acting next to a dog, and a robot named Jeff.

Finch takes place in a post-apocalyptic world in which solar flares and holes in the ozone layer have decimated the populace, and forced survivors to exist at night, as daytime temperatures have reached skin melting heights. Not surprisingly, one of the survivors is Tom Hanks, who plays a character named Finch, who is justifiably more wary of the remaining humans, as he is of the scorching hot temperatures and radiation. Finch lives a peaceful existence with his dog Goodyear, and they reside inside a robotics plant that is powered by large wind turbines, which allow Finch to build a hyper-intelligent robot who will take care of Goodyear when Finch isn’t capable of doing so anymore. The reason he needs the robot is because during his many daytime food and supply runs, Jeff has absorbed a wild amount of radiation which is slowly killing him. To make things worse, Jeff is forced to take a 1,000+ mile road trip to San Francisco to avoid a massive storm that will bury his area in sand, and most certainly take out his remaining power sources. What follows is a neat journey that involves a modified motor home, dangerous tornadoes, and some tense moments involving mysterious (and hungry) survivors. 

Directed by Miguel Sapochnik (Game of Thrones), Finch (formerly titled Bios) blends optimism with skepticism to create a movie that doesn’t have many great things to say about humanity. Instead, it focuses on finding beauty in experience, and the good and bad that come with opening up your heart, or traveling to a location you’ve always wanted to see. Writers Craig Luck and Ivor Powell made a smart decision when they decided to blend the skepticism of Finch, who has seen children murdered over food, and what happens when humans become desperate, with the optimism of Jeff, who is a highly intelligent robot that looks at the world with wide-eyed optimism because he hasn’t witnessed tragedy, loneliness or gigantic sand tornadoes that are loaded with radiation. Together, the two form a likable duo, and it would’ve been cool to see Tom Hanks, and Caleb Landry Jones (in a motion capture suit and wearing stilts) doing their thing on set. Finch lives and dies on Hanks’ performance, and it’s neat seeing Hanks embrace pessimism, and enjoy the company of animals and robots over humans. To be fair, the performance by Seamus the dog makes it easy to love the animal, and according to Sapochnik, Seamus was the MVP on set.

The pandemic forced the narrative of the film to change a bit, as earlier cuts were more bleak and dark. It’s understandable why Sapochnik moved away from a depressing film during a pandemic, but the end result doesn’t feel all there. It’s a satisfying family drama, with excellent visual effects, and another solid Hanks performance, but it’s lacking a certain amount of character development, or stakes, to make it stand out from the crowd. In the end, it’s a totally enjoyable film, that breezes by, and gives the world more Tom Hanks, which is always a good thing.

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