REVIEW: Finch (2021)

Caleb Landry Jones (as Jeff the robot) and Tom Hanks in “Finch,” now streaming on Apple TV+.

Directed by Miguel Sapochnik — Screenplay by Craig Luck & Ivor Powell.

A former storyboard artist, Miguel Sapochnik’s career as a director is quite interesting. His 2010 feature film directorial debut, Repo Men, was met with relatively negative reviews. Perhaps that reaction really hurt the young director, because his next move was to turn to television again and again. Sapochnik has since become a seasoned television director, and he has been involved with shows such as House, Fringe, and True Detective. But the project that he really made his name with was Game of Thrones, which he has directed some of the most famous episodes of including Battle of the Bastards, for which he won an Emmy. Now, in 2021, his second film as a director, Finch, is finally here, and, while it probably won’t be as big of a hit as he may have hoped (since it has been released on a streaming service without much fanfare), I really liked Finch. It is yet another solid star vehicle for Tom Hanks on Apple TV+ after Greyhound.

In Miguel Sapochnik’s Finch, we follow the titular character (played by Tom Hanks), a robotics engineer, in a post-apocalyptic world brought to its knees by a solar flare. Finch Weinberg has built a robotic helper named Dewey, and he also protects a dog named Goodyear. But all is not well with Finch. Finch realizes that he won’t be there to take care of, and protect, his dog for much longer, so he has been trying to build an advanced humanoid robot. Finch has to speed up the process of creating this robot, later named ‘Jeff’ (played by Caleb Landry Jones), when he finds out that a massive storm is on its way to their location. So, Dewey, Jeff, Goodyear, and Finch all board an RV and journey towards San Francisco. Finch knows that he will have to teach Jeff the ropes along the way, but he also knows that they have to stay away from other human beings who may pose a threat. It is a race against time for Finch, who fears that he may not be able to fully prepare Jeff in time.

Tom Hanks is certainly no stranger to films that basically amount to one-man star-vehicles. Nowadays, it feels like every star is out there looking for some kind of solo survival drama. Mads Mikkkelsen had Arctic, Robert Redford had All is Lost, Matt Damon had The Martian, Will Smith had I Am Legend, and Tom Hanks has already had Cast Away (which is better, admittedly). Hanks knows that he can hold audiences’ attention even when he is the only human on-screen. His latest attempt at doing so, Finch, gives him much more to rely on than merely Wilson the volleyball, and, while it is still a survival drama, it feels different.

Finch finds Hanks later in his life and career than Cast Away did, and this post-apocalypitic survival film allows Hanks to eventually become quite contemplative, as his character reflects on his life and his missed opportunities. Perhaps Hanks is at that point in his career where he is starting to think about what he is leaving for the next generations. As indicated, the film will remind you of several of the previously mentioned survival dramas, but it will also remind you of films like Wall-E and Chappie. While Tom Hanks is predictably solid, I think Caleb Landy Jones also deserves a lot of credit. Jones mo-capped and voiced Jeff the robot, and he is just delightful. His is a memorable film robot.

While the film doesn’t tell or show us in great detail exactly what transpired to change the world of Finch for the worse, the film’s main character is certainly aware of humanity’s own role. This all sounds very serious and perhaps even depressing, but, even though the film is about someone realizing that they won’t be there for much longer, I thought the film’s tone was interesting because it was lighter than expected. There is some sort of sense of urgency, there are tense scenes, but the film is still quite charming, it sometimes feels quite lightweight, and you fall for the characters, including its flawed titular character. It is a moving and sometimes rather heart-rending movie made for dog lovers. It sounds strange, I’ll admit, but the best description of this film really is that it is a post-apocalyptic ‘man’s best friend’ road trip buddy film.

Sometimes the film feels too long or uneven, and it certainly feels like the tension-heavy scenes are few and far between. That said, its strongest scenes, outside of the more charming scenes in which Jeff and Finch bond, are quite tense.. There is a pretty solid scene where Finch has to survive a tornado, and an incredibly tense sequence where Jeff ventures into a big city. For some, that won’t be enough and that is understandable. Finch is derivative, it is predictable, and to some it may feel sappy, but Miguel Sapochnik’s post-apocalyptic road trip film really worked for me. It is an undeniably charming Hanks film, it looks fantastic and sometimes quite real, and I think other dog owners, like myself, will be won over by the film, even if it may be slight and somewhat unremarkable. I, honestly, think it is pretty perfect for a streaming service, even though it probably won’t stick with you for very long.

7 out of 10

– Review Written by Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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