Written by Patrick Hao
In the last decade or so, Tom Hanks’ movie star persona has been the embodiment of American professionalism. His characters are men whose greatest virtue is simply being good at their job. Captain Phillips, Sully Sullenberger, and James B. Donovan are just a few of these characters. Even the white beard that Hanks has been sporting – away from his classical clean-cut look – seemingly signifies “I’m too busy being competent to shave.”
Hanks’ new film Finch is another film in his latter stage oeuvre. In Finch, he plays the eponymous character, a mechanical engineer who has settled in being one of the last remaining humans in a post-apocalyptic Earth that has become uninhabitable due to climate change and solar events. Finch is alone except for his dog and a robot dog he built, surviving due to his clever ingenuity and tinkering.
The beginning of Finch is a classic movie star performance – one in which we had already seen Hanks do so well in Cast Away (funnily enough, Zemeckis was originally slated to direct this film). Hanks is so good at being a compelling screen presence that it is almost a disappointment that the film’s ultimate goal is to become a two-hander buddy road trip movie.
The second member of this duo is Jeff, an AI, self-learning, robot companion that Finch built, downloaded with information about dog care. Finch is sick and built Jeff for the outward purpose of taking care of his dog companion when he does go, and maybe for a little companionship himself. Jeff is played convincingly in a motion capture performance from Caleb Landry Jones. His voice is tuned to a robotic fray, and his movements can capture the awkwardness of a newborn weighed down by 500 pounds of nuts and bolts. The CGI is crisp and texture.
When a coming flurry of storms make their present location untenable for living, Finch is forced to relocate in a decked out 80’s RV to San Francisco. This film is produced by Amblin and really has the feel and lightness of an ambling film. The director Miguel Sapochnik never gets in the way of what makes the film crackle – the buddy dynamic of the world-weary cynical Finch and the literal “born yesterday” enthusiasm of Jeff. It’s a simple formula that does not need tinkering with.
It’s this film’s lightness that feels refreshing when there is a feeling in modern blockbusters to infuse itself with so much gravitas. Sure, there is some meaningless messaging about trusting humanity again by the object learning to be human, but also it’s nice to just have a robot accidentally press on the gas too hard when he is learning to drive. Classic comedy. It’s a type of movie – an adult family movie – that seems so few and far between in today’s movie landscape.
Finch is available to stream on Apple TV+