Finch is one of those films that makes you ponder what audience it was made to target – why Tom Hanks is attached to it, and what the general thinking of it was in the writers room. Now, to be clear, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Finch, it’s a reliable film, if not a little slow. But that shouldn’t come as a surprise given its plot synopsis. Finch follows the story of an aging engineer by the name of Finch (Tom Hanks); a lone-wolf sort of fella who is taking refuge in the energy power plant he used to work at. Why? Well, because the post-apocalyptic world resides just outside his doorstep. The character of Finch is clearly a man of routine, this is obvious because this film takes place well into the apocalypse; Finch has been tinkering and surviving for what seems to be decades. He’s old and he knows it – and this sets the stage for the rest of the film; that being, the character of Finch leaving behind a legacy, stepping outside, and facing the world.
What largely keeps your attention fixed in Finch is the robotic companion named Jeff, a sentient helper Finch had built for the express purpose of protecting his canine companion. Jeff is a robot that has the mind of a child; and Finch is a grumpy old man with the caution of a shrew. This classic combination of caution and curiosity makes for an entertaining pairing, as we watch these two navigate the wasteland, both with different eyes on what the world is. For Finch, it is a place of danger; for Jeff, it is something else entirely. This film feels like the love-child of countless post-apocalyptic and sci-fi films we’ve all seen before, including Chappie (2015), I Am Legend (2007), and The Road (2009). It’s slow pace and focus on survival brings flashbacks to Hank’s time on the iconic island in Castaway (2000) – if not for just a moment.
But like I said, there’s nothing particularly wrong with Finch. I do however wonder how such an aggressively simplistic story was given the budget and attention to attract both Apple and Tom Hanks to it. Finch is simple; both the film itself and the actual character. But just because something is simple, that doesn’t make it ineffective. There are moments of comradery, despite how scripted it feels; and there are moments of genuine humor, even if it only produces a faint exhale from one’s nose. Finch is as reserved as the man himself; it’s a film that doesn’t take risks or veer into any bold directions – it’s story is quite mechanical and thus, relatively easy to predict.
Being contrasting to other post-apocalyptic features, Finch doesn’t use much CGI or practical effects – ultimately being simplistic in its visual narrative. Caleb Landry Jones voices Jeff but is also playing him on-screen through a motion-capture suit. The CGI used to create Jeff is not only completely convincing, particularly for a film exclusive to streaming, but also assists to his character building. The character design of Jeff is relatively simple but the camera holds its shot long enough to extract nuanced emotion from the AI android, allowing the audience to humanize him.
A truly paint-by-numbers set-up in its world building as we explore this post-apocalyptic world orange hues, desert-like environment, nature reclaiming man-made locations, and everyone has become evil raiders. This isn’t an inherently negative aspect, Finch is focused on its simplistic nature and has little interest in transporting you to an interesting and exciting fictional world. Gustavo Santaolalla composed the score for Finch, he has created some emotionally somber pieces by utilising string instruments which embrace the emotion of what the characters are going through on screen. Finch does however overstuff the first two acts with popular soundtrack songs. While the songs themselves aren’t bad such as the opening track of ‘American Pie’ by Don McLean, the film does rely heavily on the songs to enhance the light-hearted tone of the film.
I quite honestly couldn’t tell you what Finch was attempting to achieve through its story, aside from a prototypical survivor’s tale with a healthy dosage of companionship. This film could have easily been made with a lower budget and lesser known cast, but for whatever reason, it wasn’t; Tom Hanks stands front and center and this film genuinely looks polished. Finch exists, I’m not complaining, it has its moments, life goes on…