Companionship Between Man, Dog and Robot Encompasses the Endearing Finch

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Man and dog almost always seem to go hand-in-hand when post-apocalyptic settings come into question — they’re like buddy-up cop films minus all of the cheesy one-liners and recycled cliches. From I Am Legend (2007) and Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981) to the more recent Love and Monsters (2020) and now Finch (2021); man’s best friend has had a long spanning place in this genre of films.

The film marks the second feature that Hanks has starred in for Apple TV following last year’s Greyhound (2020), and the second feature from Miguel Sapochnik following Repo Men (2010).

Like the aforementioned films before it, Finch focuses on themes pertaining to companionship and surviving, but it is also a much more quiet and reflective post-apocalyptic film that digs into the importance of trust, honesty and loyalty — values exhibited by man’s best friend.

It sees a former engineer and all round tech guru Finch (Tom Hanks) and his dog Goodyear, scavenge for food and supplies in a world where most life has been wiped out due to a sun flare which has resulted in large amounts of radiation infecting the world. Finch’s own health has been impacted by this radiation so he decides to create a robot companion whose main directive among all others will be to take care of Finch’s doggo should he die. That robot, who becomes imbued with vast knowledge through some tech savvy work by Finch, decides to call himself Jeff (voiced by Caleb Landry Jones) and develops an interesting, if not coy relationship with Finch. The three companions eventually set out to San Francisco as a deadly storm closes in on their haven in St Louis.

Tom Hanks and Goodyear in Finch

Hanks begins to play Finch in a similar way to his iconic Chuck Noland from Cast Away (2000) where he’s often talking at something (his dog) as opposed to with someone. This is where the talking robot Jeff comes into play as he helps steer the film away from Cast Away territory to something more involving as opposed to a version of this film that would bank on Hanks’ performance for its entirety.

Jones gives Jeff a level of complexity that becomes more revealing as the trio trudges on in their motorhome and interact with each other. Hanks adopts a more paternal presence as he literally brings this robot into existence whilst also having the job of feeding and taking care of Goodyear and another little non-speaking robot compadre.

For what it’s worth, the trio of man, dog, and robot is actually quite endearing and heart-warming that makes me think of this film as Chappie (2015) meets I Am Legend but without the boxing and killing, respectively. It’s very much a tale of companionship that pays respect to the importance of man’s best friend and celebrates that relationship by seeing Finch echo the values of trust, honesty and loyalty at the robot he has made, so as to help Jeff build a relationship with Goodyear that is comprised of those values once Finch is gone.

While the film doesn’t necessarily offer much in the way of unique spins on the post-apocalyptic genre, it does retain a sincerity and truth that can be felt through the script — especially the dialogue. When all is said and done, it looks like the biggest winners in a world with minimal human existence will be man’s best friend — given they’ll still have someone to play catch with.

Finch is now streaming on Apple TV+

Greyhound: Tom Hanks Writes and Stars in WW2 Thriller

Rating: 2 out of 5.

With WW2 and war films continuing to permeate film culture, it is no surprise that Tom Hanks would find himself at the helm of a war destroyer in open seas. Greyhound (2020) represents Apple TV’s first proper dip into distribution of a large scale film, and for the most part, it is a clear and simple adaptation of C.S. Forester’s 1955 novel, The Good Shepherd.

The film centres around Ernest Krause (Tom Hanks), a US Navy Commander who has the mission of escorting a large convoy across the Atlantic during WW2 while German U-boats (submarines) stand in the convoys way. With air support unavailable in the central part of the journey (known as the ‘Black Pit’) due to the range, it is up to Krause and his crew to keep the convoy afloat as they carry their supplies to Allies.

Unlike Hanks’ prior performances in war films Saving Private Ryan (1998) and sea escapades like Captain Phillips (2013), Greyhound sees the two-time Oscar winning actor play a more fixed and vocal role. This isn’t necessarily a drawback of the film as Hanks’ screenplay cuts out all of the fat and exposition that often subsumes most war films, and instead settles on the action at sea and the man at its centre.

Director Aaron Schneider, known for Get Low (2009) and Two Soldiers (2003), complements Hank’s more vocal and contemplative temperament by focusing in on the tension of the battles and the ferocity of the sea. Schneider keeps most of the film centred on the bridge of the ship in order to effectively heighten the tension of each given moment and capture the spacial limitations and helplessness of being out at sea. This makes for plenty of thrilling moments as the German U-boats circle like a pack of wolves (as they assert) while Krause and his crew yell out bearings and directions.

Tom Hanks in Greyhound

In terms of some of the production aspects, the action and battle scenes are predominately CGI’d, but they hold up for a budget of US $55 million. Also, Blake Neely’s score complements the CGI’d battles in its low tone that has a constant sonar echo, and the dull green/grey colour palette is fitting for the period being depicted.

When comparing the film to other war films of recent like Dunkirk (2017) and Hacksaw Ridge (2016), Greyhound is more limited in its scope and ambitions. Not much is known about the character of Ernest Krause; there is a brief insight into his past as a commander at Pearl Harbour as well as a pre-Greyhound scene involving his significant other. However, for the most part, Hanks and Schneider want to keep the attention solely around the ship itself in order to immerse audiences in the Greyhound ship experience.

For what it’s worth, that on-ship isolation works in removing all the weight of narrative expectations that some might see as being essential (including yours truly). However, unlike something like the aforementioned Dunkirk, the same level of practicality that comes with a Nolan war film and the diversity of tense moments isn’t the same here. That might be due to the lack of space that comes with being at sea, or it might be the repetitive nature of the films events that Hanks and Schneider knuckle down on. Regardless, there isn’t much leg room to wiggle into backstory and character building that one might expect.

For a first major feature on Apple TV, Greyhound is rife with Navy lingo and sea battles, and with Tom Hanks at the helm, it makes sense that it received Oscar nominations this past year. As a war film, it isn’t as compelling as some of the films mentioned, but it is clear in its focus and objective and for the most part, it manages to provide an engaging viewing experience.

Greyhound is streaming on Apple TV