The screening room | Charming ‘Finch’ another showcase from Hanks | Cinema-television
Miguel Sapochnik’s âFinchâ might not be one of the best movies of the year, but it’s definitely one of my favorites. Set in an apocalyptic future in which global warming caused major cities to be flooded with sand and temperature in the 150s, the film contains a message of hope that is neither forced nor trivial, primarily because it is not issued through rose-colored glasses. What also makes it unique in the genre is that there aren’t any roving marauder gangs or massive action sequences, but rather a more intimate look at isolation and the need for companionship. Think of “Robinson Crusoe” and not “Mad Max”.
Tom Hanks takes on the lead role, a scientist with the intelligence to adapt to the inhuman conditions he finds himself in and makes a living by searching for supplies. Humming Don McLean’s “American Pie” as he navigates the sand-strewn streets of St. Louis, he’s about as optimistic as he gets about his situation. Bringing what he finds in his bunker loaded with books, his only companion is his dog. It is as comfortable an existence as one would hope, given the circumstances.
However, Finch knows he is dying, that the radioactive rays that caused the global catastrophe are slowing down killing him. Realizing that his dog will outlive him, he creates a robot whose goal is to take care of his four-legged friend and serve as a repository for as many stories and information as Finch can download within him.
The crash course that follows on how to care for a pet, survive the elements, and view the world through human eyes is the gist of this lovely film as Finch tries to convey everything. what he knows – and a little feeling – to his well-meaning mechanical friend. Irritated and winning, the conversations that Jeff – a name chosen by the mechanical man after the most famous ones were cast – and Finch have are mini moral lessons that Hanks delivers in his usual unpretentious and warm manner. The skillful touch that the actor has employed so effectively over the years is put to good use here, as it recounts memories of a life that no longer exists. The poignant character he conveys – without ever exaggerating the emotion – testifies to the grateful nature of the character, a recognition that he has experienced so much. There is no bitterness over what he may have missed, just an acceptance of what is and the willingness to face each day and its challenges.
The artistry that brings Jeff to life is amazing. A motion capture performance by Caleb Landry Jones serves as the basis for the character’s movements, and the subtleties he brings to the role are wonderfully accentuated by the video effects team. It’s amazing how expressive they make Jeff, although he lacks eyes, facial expressions, and other traditional modes of human communication. Jones’ body language – leaning forward as he listens intently, a questioning nod, wiggling his fingers, moving his knees up and down, or sagging on his shoulders – is almost human. Wisely, Jeff’s movements aren’t completely polished, a bit of robotic hesitation is still present, making him vulnerable and accessible.
Add to that the character’s staid language, and that’s all Hanks can do to keep the movie from being stolen from him by this CGI-human hybrid.
The film is beyond its reception, and more information on Finch would have been welcome. However, seeing Jeff happily dancing while watching popcorn popped on a hot hubcap or seeing the robot’s expressive pout after making an innocent mistake is so delicious that you’ll gladly forgive the film for its flaws.
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