The end of the world is not where you tend to make bonds. Quite the opposite, actually, as it seems like a time of depression, loneliness, and utter panic. Cinema has certainly made that much crystal clear over the years. Finch, however, wants to take a different approach to life during the end times. While this isn’t an upper of a film, per se, it does see the apocalypse as a situation in which something can actually flourish. Armed with a top notch lead performance, invention character designs, and a concept that’s executed with a ton of personality, Finch leaves a lasting impression on you. Sold to Apple TV+, it won’t launch this week with as much fanfare as a theatrical release would have, but this is a damn good movie.
Finch has a human we care about, a dog we immediately fall in love with, and a robotic presence we come to really care for as well. That’s the secret sauce of why this flick works. Everyone and everything we’re following for nearly two hours finds a place in our heart. Without that, this would be a creative yet hollow experience. Instead, it’s emotional, funny, and rather moving by the end. When the credits roll, you’ll feel like you’ve been through something with them all.
Taking place in a post-apocalyptic version of Earth, we meet Finch (Tom Hanks), an engineer/inventor who survived the collapse of society. Scavenging for supplies that keep him and his dog alive, he’s actually found a decent living for himself, complete with helper robots. However, he’s planning a far more complex endeavor in an A.I. type project he names Jeff. When he brings Jeff (Caleb Landry Jones) online, he informs the robot that it’s primary directive will eventually be the care of his dog once he’s gone. That’s supposed to be a long term goal, but when a deadly storm approaches, the group will need to leave their familiar confines and try to find a part of the world that’s untouched by disaster.
As Finch sets out with his dog and Jeff for safety, they encounter several problems. For one thing, the journal is dangerous. For another, Jeff is hardly ready to take over for Finch. Unfortunately, as we soon learn, that’s not going to matter. Moreover, the robot is curious about life and pleasing his human master, leading to all sorts of chaos. Luckily, Finch knows that this can eventually lead to something good, so they press on. The less said about what happens next, the better, but while it won’t surprise you, it likely will satisfy you.
Tom Hanks is a reliably affecting presence here. Alone on the screen, Hanks immediately grabs your sympathy. Moreover, watching him work with a dog and a robot (clearly utilizing CGI at times) only goes to show how great of an actor he is. Caleb Landry Jones seems like an unusual choice for a robot character, but he gives Jeff a quirk we rarely see through his motion capture and voice work. Eventually, Hanks and Jones develop an odd yet compelling chemistry. The tiny supporting cast also includes Oscar Avila, Lora Martinez-Cunningham, and Marie Wagenman, but this is all about Hanks.
Director Miguel Sapochnik showcases, for the first time, a real aptitude for emotion. Finch uses your affection for the trio at the core to great effect. The script by Craig Luck and Ivor Powell give Sapochnik the ammunition to go to town here. Aided by Jo Willems‘ cinematography and a score from Gustavo Santaolalla, Sapochnik gives this a comfy and familiar feel, while still showing off the oppression of being one of the last men on Earth. However, Luck and Powell layer this with plenty of humor, making it a fuller experience than you might expect.
Finch weaves a well-worn path through the sci-fi genre, but it does so with an abundance of hope and humanity. That’s not something you often see in a film of this ilk, and that’s a lovely addition. Hanks’ reliable presence, the love you feel for the dog and the robot, as well as the yearning you have for something good to ultimately happen, they all rule the day. Dropping on Apple TV+, Finch is well worth checking out.