The most important relationship a human can have in their lifetime is with a domesticated animal – cat, dog, or some other critter. But man’s best friend will always be held in a higher regard because of the special relationship forged since the dawn of time. For humans, animals only make up a fraction of our lives but for a pet, we are their entire world for their lives. They depend on us for shelter, food, and safety. An apocalypse disrupts any quality of life for human or pet. Finch takes the relationship between man and dog and flips it – not only is dog man’s best friend but dog is robot’s best friend.
A robot named Jeff (voiced by Caleb Landry Jones) that is. Created by robotics engineer Finch Weinberg (Tom Hanks), the last of few survivors on earth due to solar flares destroying the ozone. Finch is in the care of an adorable pup named Goodyear who form a bond that can’t be broken. Finch understands that his life will soon end – he’s sick and dying from an undisclosed disease. Worried about Goodyear, Finch teaches Jeff how to care for Goodyear though Goodyear is reluctant to trust the self-named Jeff. With a storm surging toward St. Louis causing the city to become more inhabitable than before – Finch, Goodyear, Dewey (a second humanoid robot) and Jeff head west to San Francisco in hopes of a more favorable living situation.
Finch offers nothing new for the post-apocalyptic sub-genre with plenty to take inspiration from. Think of I Am Legend with a few tweaks and a less upsetting second half of the film (watching that film is triggering for a dog owner, regardless of a world-ending event that wipes out humanity). But Finch introducing a humanoid element to care for the goodest boy when the inevitable occurs makes the premise more intriguing.
Unlike I Am Legend Tom Hanks’ Finch is all alone, no other human character makes their way on screen for the duration of the 115-minute runtime. Though human life is alluded to, it’s just Hanks, he commands the screen, able to hold anyone’s attention for the length as he always had in his legendary career. Something about Hanks with an in adamant objects makes for a fascinating character study.
At least Wilson didn’t have any speaking lines – Jeff does the impossible, taking his moments almost stealing some of Finch’s thunder. Both Hanks and Jones’s voice have incredible chemistry together, playing off every emotional beat. Finch’s theme is expertly placed within their relationship. Friendship is given emphasis but it’s not one-sided. Each of the three characters form a bond with one another that wouldn’t normally work with a weak script. It’s not necessarily a strong script either by writers Craig Luck and Ivor Powell – it gets the job done but its Hanks’ performance that heightens the writing.
Jeff is no regular humanoid robot either – he can walk, scavenge, adapt, learn, drive, play fetch and protect Goodyear as a 4th law of robotics is installed in his programming. Caleb Landry Jones gives Jeff a unique personality bringing a sense of childlike wonder with every line of dialogue spoken by the humanoid robot. Jeff is naïve yet intuitive, cold yet compassionate.
Moving at a steady pace, Finch hits the highs and lows expected of an apocalyptic film. Director Miguel Sapochnik builds tension where it’s supposed to be with the unpredictable moments leaving a world of possibilities. Even with a lack of no other humans on screen, the environment and weather are left to shoulder the thrilling aspects of the screenplay.
Finch is a familiar post-apocalyptic far heightened by another Tom Hanks sole performance. Where it lacks in simplicity, the film makes up for in ingenuity introducing a humanoid robot that nearly out acts Hanks. Don’t worry, there is nothing too upsetting about this film with a dog as a main character. I’m just glad they used a real dog, instead of a CGI and a more unrealistic approach. I also prefer this Hanks performance to his Greyhound one from last year – Finch is an infinitely more interesting character with more to offer in his illustrious career.
Written By: Craig Luck & Ivor Powell
Directed By: Miguel Sapochnik
Music By: Gustavo Santaolalla
Cinematography: Jo Willems
Starring: Tom Hanks & Caleb Landry Jones
Where to Watch: Apple TV +
Release Date: November 5, 2021
Running Time: 1 Hour 55 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 73%
My Score: 3.5 out of 5