Review: ‘Finch’ plays Tom Hanks, a robot and a dog – what more could you want?

Tom Hanks, lying on post-apocalyptic land, plays an ailing engineer who builds a walking, talking robot named Jeff, whose sole purpose is to protect his beloved dog, Goodyear.

WTOPs Jason Fraley reviews ‘Finch’

If you need a star where the movie industry is heading, note that its probably biggest star, Tom Hanks, has just made back-to-back movies for the streaming service Apple TV +.

Last year, he starred in the underrated submarine movie “Greyhound,” which is worth watching if you missed it. This weekend he returns for another Apple Original with the sci-fi friend movie “Finch”, which offers Hanks, a robot and a dog – what more could you want?

On a post-apocalyptic earth, the sick engineer Finch Weinberg (Hanks) builds a walking, talking robot named Jeff, whose sole purpose is to protect his beloved dog, Goodyear. While embarking on a cross-country trip, driving a deceived camper from St. Louis to San Francisco, the robot learns about life, love, friendship and what it means to be human.

Beginning with photos of an emaciated Hanks, this is perhaps the most worn-out we’ve seen him since the ingenious PTSD finale of “Captain Phillips” (2013). Alone with his dog as Will Smith in “I Am Legend” (2017), Hanks combines the doggie daddy duties of “Turner & Hooch” (1989) with personified friends as Wilson the volleyball in “Cast Away” (2000).

The CGI robot is not as adorable as “WALL-E” (2008) nor as annoying as “Chappie” (2015), but still an impressive feat of visual effects. Narrated by Caleb Landry Jones (“Get Out”), his speech pattern begins robotic and then evolves into fluent English. It gets almost too human and takes us out of the magic as opposed to the adorable chopping voices from ET or Johnny 5.

The robot is not the only technology for sci-fi fans. The inflated motorhome boasts solar panels on the roof that allow Finch to maximize his fuel supply while searching for leftovers in pantries with deserted grocery stores. Apart from a brief look back, we see no other people in the futuristic world. We are told that they exist, but Finch deliberately avoids them.

He does this by only driving around during the day when it is too hot for other people to navigate. Mankind has ravaged ozone with global warming to 140 degrees. Finch’s skin literally burns in the sun, so he must remain in the shade like a vampire, not so different from the many American hermits who are forced to stay indoors by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This gloomy atmosphere is the visual key for director Miguel Sapochnik, who won an Emmy for directing the episode “Battle of the Bastards” of “Game of Thrones” (2011). Sapochnik films on-site in New Mexico to capture the dry terrain in dusty, hazy, dangerous environments ripe with sandstorms, tornadoes and off-screen desert bandits.

The script by Craig Luck and Ivor Powell is pretty bleak with moments of comic relief between very sad moments. The tone is a bit too dark for a light-hearted family film, but also too juicy for a rough drama that lets it get stuck somewhere in between. Likewise, Don McLean’s “American Pie” feels at odds with Gustavo Santaolalla’s intense score.

We learn just enough background stories about Finch’s own parents and the solar flare that caused the global apocalypse, but mainstream viewers may demand more details. The same goes for the finale, which offers blossoming hope in the midst of tragedy, but the reason is never really explained by a lack of declining action that leaves us wanting more closure.

told Sapochnik Hollywood Reporter that the ending was changed to give more hope while the real-life pandemic raged on. Utilizing isolationist themes that audiences deal with every day of their own lives, it is not as much escapism as it is catharsis.

In the end, “Finch” is a valuable experience of going to the cinema, if we are to say film stays. You will be glad you saw it, even though you may not see it again, but you can just hug your dog a little closer and start talking to the coffee machine the next morning.

The dog barks, but I’m still waiting for Keurig to speak back.

3.5 stars

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