Finch Review: Tom Hanks' post apocalyptic film is an emotional ride with a robot as its beating heart
Finch Cast: Tom Hanks, Caleb Landry Jones
Finch Director: Miguel Sapochnik
Streaming Platform: AppleTV+
Finch Stars: 3.5/5
If humanity were to cease to exist and you're probably among a handful of species left on Earth, whom would you want to spend your final few days with is the kind of question I happened to question myself while watching Finch. The Tom Hanks starrer AppleTV+ film sets itself for an adventure ride as the actor's protagonist Finch Weinberg weathers the apocalypse alongside a dog and a robot. What binds these survivors together is a bond that seems indescribable at best because not everything can be labeled, can it?
Finch Weinberg (Tom Hanks) is among the few of his kind who have survived on Earth after a calamitous event left the planet inhabitable for humans raising temperatures over 150-degrees and fatally harmful radiation levels. Finch has set up his home in a St Louis laboratory, where he once presumably worked as a robotics engineer. Weinberg's (Hanks) survival buddy is an adorable dog named Goodyear and a lunar rover named Dewy. Amid the fear of his numbered days on Earth given the conditions, Finch takes upon the project of building a droid whom he tries to program in a way so as to impart him with the knowledge of taking care of a dog, in the event of his death.
On paper, as a script, Finch may not sound unique or special enough when it comes to survival genre thrillers but you will be surprised to see how easily it sucks you into its charm. One of the biggest elements that director Miguel Sapochnik (of Game of Thrones fame) and writers Craig Luck, Ivor Powell play on with this film is that they throw the traditional 'human and his pet' story trope out of the window. I won't explain how they do it considering the appeal of it is best realised while watching the film. Luck and Powell present a story that tugs at your heartstrings in the most unexpected moments as it explores a core human value, trust, and how it forms, bends and endures over time and circumstances. On one hand, Weinberg's human is wary of trusting his own kind despite the decimating number of them, his dog Goodyear on the other can't put his faith in the metallic, speaking-walking robot Jeff (beautifully voiced by Caleb Landry Jones).
The film takes off with Hanks' Finch showing his survival guide, which includes scavenging around for any food items or useful items left behind along with his rover Dewy. Sporting a UV suit, early on in the film, we see Hanks' face light up as he finds a can of dog food during his expedition. It's reflective of his undeniably special bond with survival buddy, Goodyear. I'd say find someone who looks out for you like Finch does for Goodyear, without ever claiming ownership in a bond. There's also a paternal side of Finch that comes out in the most endearing way as he grooms his robot Jeff to adapt to human traits, yes traits, not just tasks. He's the storyteller, the driving teacher and a parent no less when it comes to evading uncomfortable questions. Jeff, for me, is hands down one of the best portrayals of a movie robot in years. It's a fresh take on the bygone C3PO era and I'm all for it.
Sapchnik's film is working on two levels at every step, it's visually a sci-fi piece that portrays rugged landscapes and eerie emptiness of a world that was, lives lived and lost in stunning visuals by Jo Willems. Also, reflective enough of Finch's own personality that's bereft of any actual human bond. At the same time, it's also an emotional film, bringing the warmth and cosiness from inside Finch's world from the indoors, be it in his St Louis lab with a "Home Sweet Home" mat or his caravan that serves as the beacon of hope as he ventures out with it on a journey towards the Golden Gate following the warning of a deadly storm in St Louis. Why Golden Gate you ask? It's Finch's own way of connecting to things that he's lost because of his humanly ways while living a life that held him back with its pressures.
While there's mention of other humans, Sapochnik doesn't go deep into it except during one sequence that adds a bit of a suspenseful element but it's a short-lived adventure that ends much before it turns into something thrilling. That's also the only element where the film dives into a mode of the unknown because the rest of it progresses in a predictable manner. Although even as you are prepared for what lies towards the end, Sapochnik doesn't lay it out easily on you and it's hard not getting emotionally overwhelmed by the end of it all. Whether it's Goodyear's adorable glances or Jeff's innocence combined with Hanks' forever nice persona, everything comes together for a climax that could leave you bawling your eyes out. Not to mention, Gustavo Santaolalla’s tender score that pushes you to feel more.
While Tom Hanks continues to show us he's the best in business when it comes to playing the everyman with an ease like no other with this film too, his performance is surprisingly upstaged by Caleb Landry Jones voiced Jeff in the film. Jones is the highlight of this film with his vocal and physical work in this motion-capture performance. His mechanical voice and its subtle development as time passes by in the film is beyond amazing to experience. As for the third and most important member of the film, the pooch is no less of a scene-stealer and I think he deserves the best belly rubs for this fine performance.
Finch is basically a film that despite its simplicity in terms of the screenplay, makes for an evocative watch because of its technical abilities to push beyond its surface-level story. It's a film that I warn you, will make you feel its emotional weight and keeping a box of tissues handy during its final moments is the best advice I can offer you while watching this gem.