Review by Rich Cline | 3/5

dir Miguel Sapochnik
scr Craig Luck, Ivor Powell
prd Kevin Misher, Jack Rapke, Jacqueline Levine, Ivor Powell
with Tom Hanks, Caleb Landry Jones, Lora Martinez-Cunningham, Marie Wagenman, Oscar Avila, Emily Jones
release US/UK 5.Nov.21
21/US Amblin 1h55

hanks jones

Is it streaming?

jeff and hanks
Stirring post-apocalyptic thrills and breezy humour into a warm and sentimental drama, director Miguel Sapochnik holds the interest in this gently rolling narrative. Essentially a coming-of-age story about an android, the film features another hugely endearing performance from Tom Hanks. It would have found more resonance with a deeper exploration the fragility of humanity, but as a lightly entertaining road movie with impressive visuals, it does the trick.
In an overheated, sand-covered St Louis, tech-whiz inventor Finch (Hanks) might be the last man alive. He lives in a sealed building with his faithful dog Goodyear and robotic assistant Dewey. As he digitises books and researches the effects of solar flares, he is also building a more complex artificially intelligent android to care for his dog after radiation poisoning kills him. Although Goodyear isn't so sure about this metallic creature named Jeff (Jones). With an enormous superstorm heading their way, Finch takes his makeshift family on the road, heading west across the Rockies.
Sapochnik keeps things looking beautiful in a range of picturesque landscapes and effects-tinged locations. While there is a series of action sequences along the road, relating to both weather and unseen but menacing human survivors, the film's central focus is on a droid discovering the meaning of his existence, with key moments that include seeing himself in a mirror for the first time or choosing his name. Finch wants to teach him how to think for himself. Indeed Jeff's mind works laterally, inventively solving problems and experimenting in his interaction with both Finch and Goodyear.

Of course, this isn't Hanks' first film in which he's virtually the only actor on-screen, and he skilfully holds the attention both all by himself and in his interaction with the hugely reactive actor-dog Seamus and the endlessly curious Jeff, who sparks several challenging conversations and coaxes out his back story. Jones' vocal and motion-capture performance is packed with surprises, revealing flickers of personality that include jagged childish emotions. "I know you were born yesterday," Finch says, "but it's time for you to grow up."

Some of Sapochnik's touches feel obvious (such as the Talking Heads' Road to Nowhere), but the film's earthy charm is infectious, while its plot points, settings and images are assuringly familiar. They're also, alas, never surprising. But along the way there are intriguing notes about a human's ability to make decisions based on instinct, which is both an advantage and a danger. And while it's perhaps both too muted and too pushy, where the story goes is moving and hopeful.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 5.Nov.21

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© 2021 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall