Set in the near future, the movie takes place in a world where a catastrophic solar flare devastated the planet. 140° Fahrenheit temperatures are commonplace and most people are dead, burned to a crisp, leaving behind desiccated corpses. Those who are left, like Finch (Hanks) must scavenge for food and supplies. Finch, an engineer and inventor, lives in a bunker with his best (and only) friend, a cute dog named Goodyear.
When he isn’t driving around in his armored vehicle—a giant RV with solar panels—exploring the burned-out area around his home for any morsels that might have been left behind, he is working in the lab, building a robot.
Finch isn’t tinkering with the droid to pass the time. He’s sick, slowly dying of radiation poisoning and building a machine to care for Goodyear once he is unable.
Slapped together with spare parts, the robot (Caleb Landry Jones), with his elongated face and camera lens eyes, is a gangly contraption, childlike in his awareness of the strange new world to which he is introduced.
As Finch’s health worsens so does the situation outside his doors. As temperatures rise and the weather becomes more and more unstable, Finch, Goodyear and the robot, who goes by the name Jeff, hit the road headed toward San Francisco.
The trip is fraught with danger and made no less easy by Jeff’s learning curve. He’s not always the droid Finch is looking for. “I know you were born yesterday,” says an exasperated Finch, “but I need for you to grow up!”
Despite the high tech aspects of the story—the robotics and mysterious cause of the dystopia—“Finch” is an old fashioned movie. The action sequences are old school, man-against-nature style, as Finch and his rag tag team battle tornadoes, UV radiation and extreme weather in the hellish post-apocalyptic wasteland.
More than that, “Finch” is not really about the robot. It’s about making a connection, human or otherwise, determination and legacy.
Ensuring that the movie has some heart and soul is Hanks. He’s in virtually every frame of the film, and his empathic likability shines through. There’s not a lot of backstory—any background is told in the form of stories to teach Jeff a life lesson—but Hanks, through his expressive eyes provides all the details we need.
Landry Jones, in a motion capture performance, brings a great deal of heart and humour to the mechanical Jeff as he figures out the nuts-and-bolts of day-to-day life. The father and son bond between he and Finch brings both the joy and sorrow of relationships to the fore and goes beyond the usual buddy movie clichés into something deeper.
“Finch” is a different kind of post-apocalyptic movie. In fact, it may be the most jovial end of the world flick ever. Finch and Jeff lightheartedly joust back and forth, which leads to some sappy moments but at the end of the day it’s about their relationship. And let’s face it, if Hanks could make us care about a volleyball in “Castaway” he can make you fall for a CGI robot.