Monday, November 22, 2021





Dir. by - Miguel Sapochnik 
Prod. by - Craig Luck, Daniel Maze, Kevin Misher, Ivor Powell, Jack Rapke, 
Miguel Sapochnik, Robert Zemeckis  
Written by - Craig Luck, 
Ivor Powell
Director of Photography - 
Jo Willems
Edited by - Tim Porter
Production Design - 
Tom Meyer
Music - Gustavo Santaolalla
Run Time: 115 mins.  
Release: 11/5/2021

Production Companies - Amblin Ent., Reliance Ent., Walden Media, ImageMovers, Misher Films

GullCottage rating
(***** on a scale of 1-5)

     Well, obviously less a question and more a statement disguised as one, far as this guy’s concerned the answer is a resounding “Hell yeah!”. Funny thing, though, is as soon as some of you saw the phrase “family friendly” - admit it - you kinda made that face, didn’t you? Uh huh. But I’m not talking a “so-called” family film in that beat-to-death and clichéd THE BOATNIKS, NORTH AVENUE IRREGULARS, HERBIE GOES TO MONTE CARLO way. And not that those aren’t enjoyable films with lots to offer. But they’re “so-called” in that they’re not so much “family” films as they are “kids” films. Get my meaning? Over time that’s become the defacto … and wholly inaccurate ... definition of “family film” / “family friendly”. And at the outset, before diving into the surprisingly unique, heartbreakingly-magical-and-hopeful-yet-at-the-same-time-dark-and-mature, … and genuinely special! ... FINCH, I’d like us to be on the same page about that.  

(L) Dir. Miguel Sapachnik  / (R) Producer Robert Zemeckis
                                                                     Around the time of the release of BACK TO THE FUTURE III, director Robert Zemeckis, who also happens to be one of the producers of Miguel Sapochnik’s visually and emotionally gripping FINCH – at it’s core a straight up Rod Serling-esque treatise on both the light and dark nature of individual humanity - set the record straight on what a true “family film” should be, … which is (I mean, duh, right?) one in which not only little kids can become engrossed, but one which every member of the family – the young’ens, dark and moody teens, and even Moms, Dads, Grandmoms and Grandpops – can find themselves enjoying. And coming from the guy who knows a thing or two about grabbing the attention of every demographic within a single film – be it with one of his BACK TO THE FUTUREs, ROGER RABBIT, ROMANCING THE STONE, FORREST GUMP, CAST AWAY or whatever – I’d say he hit that nail precisely on the head. 

     This is what we have with FINCH, an often disturbing yet ironically at the same time hopeful post-apocalyptic cautionary sci-fi yarn cum road trip. Think DAMNATION ALLEY without the flesh-eating cockroaches, or MAD MAX: FURY ROAD sans the guitar flamethrower, and with enough LOGAN’S RUN-esque light at the end of the journey to rope in, entertain and, yes, remind all (hey, I did say it’s Rod Serling-esque, remember?) of what in the long haul, both individually and for humanity’s future in general, ultimately matters as being most important. And isn’t this something many have been mulling over and making life change choices about since the COVID pandemic upended every-single-effin’-thing in everyone’s life over these last couple of years? 

     In the not-too-distant future a major solar flare has punched enough sizable holes in the earth’s ozone layer to make the planet uninhabitable for most life - be that life human, animal or plant – with the average daytime temperature reaching approx. 150 degrees F. Among the few survivors within this near literal hellscape is Finch Weinberg (Tom Hanks), a former engineer whose intellect has allowed him to survive for years within the underground laboratory of his former employer company – a bunker out of which he regularly ventures to scour abandoned malls, etc. for food and other essentials that he might sustain the existence (one can hardly call it “life”) of himself, his dog Goodyear, and a small utility robot, kind of an advanced Mars Rover, named “Dewey”. And, oh, a nice shout-out to Douglas Trumball’s SILENT RUNNING there with “Dewey”👍. Anyway, … 

     Not only has the ozone decimation created a mostly scorched earth itself. But it triggers sudden and catastrophic atmospheric pressure shifts – shifts which regularly generate outbursts of hurricane-like dust storms carrying multiple tornadoes and slicing sand and debris within; the combination of which - factoring in the excessive heat as well - can flatten entire city blocks and rip to shreds anyone or anything unfortunate enough to be caught on the streets. In fact the film opens with a wowzer of an action / suspense sequence with Hanks and Dewy scrounging for supplies at the ghost of an old Dollar Store (while Don McLean’s “American Pie” heartbreakingly wafts from the old-school cassette player in Finch’s converted all terrain vehicle) and such a monster storm rolls into the city. 

     Finch and Dewy find themselves in said vehicle attempting to outrace the storm back to the safety of Finch’s bunker as the micro hurricane overturns abandoned vehicles and blasts to bits the remains of entire city blocks. In it’s pacing, editing, tone and uber-realistic realization of it’s visual effects (both practical and CGI) it’s surely among the most breathtaking filmic sequences of the year, and – all talk of Denis Villeneuve’s DUNE aside – this is one scene I truly wished I could’ve seen on an IMAX-sized screen rather than the – yeah, impressive, but not nearly the same thing – HDR tv screen in the home viewing room.  

     Now, while FINCH opens with that impressively nail-biting sequence, and while it does contain a few heart-palpitatingly suspenseful others within the confines of it’s 115 min. running time, it is most assuredly not an action suspense sci fier. So, one shouldn’t enter into it with that mindset. If you do you’ll most likely come away disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, director Miguel Sapochnik sure as hell knows how to wrap his audience around the finger of a killer action / suspense sequence, as evidenced by some of the mind boggling JOHN WICK / JOHN WOO-like razzle dazzle of his underrated 2010 future-world action flick REPO MEN with Jude Law and Forest Whitaker, as well as with some of those grand scale battle scenes he over the years staged for GAME OF THRONES. But FINCH rather quickly reveals itself to at it’s core be a more laid back, character-based “road movie” peppered with a couple of such suspense set pieces rather than an action or suspense film for the simple sake of one. 

Sapochnik's REPO MEN (2010)

     As mentioned earlier FINCH isn't DAMNATION ALLEY or THE ROAD WARRIOR. And, even though it’s certainly more tonal and thematic kin with say David Lynch’s THE STRAIGHT STORY (1999) with Richard Farnsworth, or Roger Donaldson’s THE WORLD’S FASTEST INDIAN (2005) with Anthony Hopkins, it’s not quite as “laid back” as those films either. It falls somewhere in-between – perhaps a little closer on the cinematic tone shelf with John Hillcoat’s 2009 adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s THE ROAD with Viggo Mortensen, … only not quite as nilhistic. Hope I’m zooming in on the right tone here without giving away anything. Oh, yeah, one very important thing too …

     A few critics have opined that “… while well made, and while Hanks performance is quite good, FINCH brings nothing new to the genre of post apocalyptic films”. But I’m gonna swim against that stream and say this is a superficial and narrow-minded observation born of today’s simplistic Film 101-esque “Wow and surprise me with Tsui Hark action, James Cameron FX, and Rod Serling / M. Night Shyamalan-like plotlines and surprise twists, … or this film isn’t worth it” mindset. No, FINCH isn’t a George Lucas, Christopher Nolan or even Alex Garland-like “narrative freight train” where “This happens, then this happens, then the story shifts in this direction, then this happens, then this happens and if shifts again and …”.  No. And it really doesn’t expand the genre anymore than LOGAN’S RUN, THE OMEGA MAN or THE ROAD did. It has no intentions of doing so. So, if one wants to hang the “doesn’t add anything new” millstone around FINCH’s neck, then you also kind of have to do the same for those three aforementioned (and other) films as well. 

     Nah, FINCH is much more 1970s and 80s era old-school in that, just as back then how writer / filmmakers such as Robert Towne, John Sayles, John Milius and others used “Old as the hills and twice as dusty” tropes like film noir, westerns and more to make clever (and often pointed) commentary / observations on issues of the day, … and how, y’know, LOGAN’S RUN used the post apocalyptic genre to at it’s core tell an old-fashioned love story of one-to-one commitment during the era of “free love”, how THE OMEGA MAN used it’s “Last Man On Earth” post apocalyptic scenario to comment on the need for individualism in an increasingly “homogeneous” world, and how SOYLENT GREEN quite literally spoke to “social cannibalism”, etc., … . Yeah, so to also does FINCH use the tried and true (some might say “played out”) post apocalyptic filmic milieu / genre to do what is essentially a more intimate and sci fi-ish take on the biblical story of Noah’s Ark – one which, lo and behold, happens to perfectly dovetail with more than a few global warming issues of the day as well as a number of sociological concerns of our COVID era. But like LOGAN'S RUN and OMEGA MAN it does it in an entertaining and non-preachy way. Well, ... like LOGAN'S RUN does, anyway - haha! 😉

     Early on in FINCH, … in fact right after Finch and Dewey outrun the hurricane / sandstorm and make it back to Finch’s underground bunker, … we learn that Finch has been digitizing books while constructing an android, an android which later chooses as it’s own name “Jeff”. Jeff has been created so that if anything should happen to Finch, Jeff can become a receptacle or “message in a bottle” (if you will) of certain things – and one task in particular! (no spoilers here) – concerning mankind’s past / existence. While Finch is in the midst of doing so, weather detection indicates a massive hurricane / dust storm is on the verge of rolling in, a storm the likes of which has never occurred. Estimates are that it will last not for a few hours, as is the norm, but for 40 days, … and you don’t get more Old Testament biblical than that! Realizing he, Dewey, Jeff and Goodyear won’t be able to outlast the storm within the bunker, Finch makes the decision to load up a retrofitted (and truly bad-assed) RV / mobile home – sort of a less militant version of DAMNATION ALLEY’s “Landmaster” – and to head north towards San Francisco, a city which, for some reason hinted at via old postcards from family, holds personal significance for Finch. 

     Finch, the dog and the bots load up in the RV, head north and, while braving deadly storms, human marauders and (perhaps the most dangerous of all) crippling memories from Finch’s own past, Jeff is taught how to drive (some truly funny sequences there!), how to care for dogs, and (kind of as if Pinocchio or STAR TREK’s Data had received a crash course) not only taught how to sort / sift through voluminous amounts of factual material concerning physics, biology and human history, but about the nature – both light and dark – of what it truly means to be human. In essence, while not doing the “bringing two of each animal species aboard the ark in order to replenish the earth” thing, Jeff becomes the “two by two” vessel which, in the ultimate event of Finch’s demise (and he’s only human and will die one day) will help to replenish (“Be fruitful and multiply” if you will) a sense of old-world humanity into a currently cut-throat, socially (and at times literally) cannibalistic, violent, “I got mine - you get yours”, “dog eat dog” world. So, once again a very sharp / on-point analogy (intended or not, who knows?) in the COVID era where a year ago people were ready to one up, roll over, out jockey and physically fight one another for something as simple as toilet paper. Heaven help us if we ever got / get beyond TP and to the point of basic survival supplies like food and shelter as most of the world of FINCH finds itself.

FINCH's "road movie" thematic kin: (top) DAMNATION ALLEY (1977 / dir. - Jack Smight) /
(bottom) THE ROAD (2009 / dir. - John Hillcoat)

      So, all said, if one wants a “new” twist on the post apocalyptic genre, well, this is a remarkable one – a character and biblically thematically based one! I’m from the 1970s where – from CHINATOWN, to BLAZING SADDLES, to THE GODFATHER and even STAR WARS -  this kind of “using a cliched genre to make a new point” was the purpose of so many films. And FINCH, co-written by ALIEN / BLADE RUNNER producer Ivor Powell and (truly a Hollywood success story) Craig Luck – who just a few years ago was an on-set assistant / go-fer on films such as MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – ROUGE NATION, SOLO, DOCTOR STRANGE and ANNIHILATION - deliberately harkens back to that 70s brand of uber-intelligent and subtextual sci fi filmmaking we got in movies like the aforementioned LOGAN’S RUN and THE OMEGA MAN, as well as others like SILENT RUNNING, the original PLANET OF THE APES series, ROLLERBALL and more.  

FINCH's "road movie" tonal kin: (top) THE STRAIGHT STORY (1999 / dir. - David Lynch) /
THE WORLD'S FASTEST INDIAN (2005 / dir. - Roger Donaldson)

     As for the intriguingly “family friendly” aspects of this film … . Well, first off, nailing down the casting of Tom Hanks is a super important primary aspect as he automatically brings an honesty and integrity to the proceedings even before he opens his mouth. He’s an actor (and perhaps even more so nowadays) a personality / persona which, Walter Cronkite-like, is – across ethnic, political, religious and geographical boundaries - beloved and trusted by men and women of all ages and from all walks of life, and with whom children (even very young ones) have a natural affinity and warmness towards; those last qualities a large part of the reason for the success of films like the TOY STORY series and even the otherwise kinda / sorta creepy THE POLAR EXPRESS. But the stunning realization of the android Jeff is another all important family friendly aspect as well.

   I remember working at a large independent video store in Philadelphia back during the 1980s / early 90s. And, while it was expected that kids would come in with mom and dad, glance over the shelves and go sugar-happy-ballistic-bouncy seeing the boxes for THE LITTLE MERMAID and AN AMERICAN TAIL, etc., it was genuinely surprising to see them almost have the same reaction to seeing the box for Fred Schepisi’s 1984 drama ICEMAN with John Lone, Timothy Hutton, Lindsay Crouse and Danny Glover; or Carroll Ballard’s THE BLACK STALLION from 1979. These weren’t / aren’t “kids movies”. But the main characters in those films - from John Lone’s 40,000 year old man revived and alive in the modern world, to the titular wild Arabian horse of Ballard’s film, are primal “outsiders” among more (so-called) “have it together” adults. And there’s a connection / familiarity / point of identification which small children had / have with them.

     This is a rare and ethereal thing because you never really saw that kind of “affinity” from kids for Jeff Bridges’ similarly primal and childlike STARMAN. But you do also see it in how to this day small children react to the character of THE INCREDIBLE HULK (the most popular comic book character with very small kids) and even to Robert Zemeckis’ CAST AWAY, … in particular the “character” of Wilson the inanimate volleyball – who (well, actually which) is brought to “life” more from Tom Hanks’ performance opposite him / it than anything else. The same exact thing with Hanks and the android Jeff. 

     Jeff is essentially a newborn child who has to learn everything. And as such he’s got a zillion questions, is often eager to please – sometimes dangerously too much so, occasionally impetuous, has his feelings easily hurt; and needs the patience, understanding … and at times firm hand … of a loving parent. Realized as partially a live on-set performance by X-MEN: FIRST CLASS / GET OUT actor Caleb Landry Jones in a “robot suit”, and partially via motion capture and CGI, in FINCH Jeff not only emerges as arguably the most engaging and lovable android since R2 and 3PO escape-podded their way into our hearts almost 45 years ago. But the relationship between him (yes, I'll use that word) and Hanks becomes the perfect eternal Father’s Day gift from the cinematic gods (yeah, this definitely goes on the “Best Father’s Day” movies list alongside A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT, A BRONX TALE, THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS and LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL) as both kids and adults can - perhaps paradoxically - tap into the reality at hand within a larger than life science fiction based tale. The reality of love, protection and direction from a very imperfect parent seeking to prepare loved ones for a day when the parent will no longer be there, and the young’ens will have to care for themselves in a harsh / cruel world.      

     Suspenseful, funny, mysterious and scary, and with a dog, robots and more! ... .  Hey, that’s a road movie for the entire family. And in it’s intelligence and heart – for me at least – one which just might rate as the best film - sci fi or not, for families or otherwise - of the year period



More @ ...




 FINCH trailer (2021 / 2:41 mins.)


THE FILM AND WHY IT CHANGED (2021 / 16:25 mins.) 

Jimmy Kimmel Live: TOM HANKS ON GOING TO 


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