Finch review: Tom Hanks is exceptional in Apple TV+'s moving sci-fi
Tom Hanks has experience carrying a movie all by himself in Cast Away, but his new sci-fi movie Finch takes it to another level.
While he might have been marooned on a remote island for most of Cast Away, Hanks still had some interaction elsewhere in the movie with actual human beings. Finch, on the other hand, sees the beloved actor play the only human character on screen... although he does have an adorable dog for company.
As with Greyhound, Finch was set for the big screen before it was picked up by Apple TV+, but don't take that as a criticism of its quality. The streaming service's original movies have been patchy – for every CODA, there's a Cherry – but Finch is up there with its very best to date.
Welcome to the latest on-screen post-apocalyptic world, this time caused by a cataclysmic solar event that left the world a wasteland. Robotics engineer Finch (Hanks) is one of the few survivors and has been living in an underground bunker for a decade with his dog Goodyear.
After an opening that sets out the perilous day-to-day job he has to get supplies, we see Finch working on a robot to care for Goodyear when he no longer can. But his plans are scuppered when an unexpected weather event forces Finch to leave his bunker and set off on a perilous journey across America.
In the desolate world, Finch aims to show his robot – who calls himself Jeff (voiced by Caleb Landry Jones) – what it means to be alive, as well as the importance of fetch. But during a road trip filled with challenges, can Finch get Jeff and Goodyear to bond before it's too late?
While it's an original story, it's hard not to see comparisons in Finch to post-apocalyptic sci-fi tales such as I Am Legend and The Omega Man. There aren't direct homages to those movies, but the early stages of Finch surviving out in the wasteland on his own might cause worries that it'll be overly familiar and derivative.
However, it quickly becomes clear that director Miguel Sapochnik (Game of Thrones' go-to guy for Big Episodes), along with writers Craig Luck and Ivor Powell, aren't too interested in the post-apocalyptic-ness of it all. Yes, there are references to the remains of humanity and why they can't be trusted, but the focus in the movie is on Finch, Goodyear and Jeff as a dysfunctional family unit.
Those looking for conflict won't be served by Finch as, one tense night-time sequence aside, Sapochnik keeps things low-key. The threat is built into the world with the deadly sunlight (due to a lack of an ozone layer), and Sapochnik smartly avoids piling on the apocalyptic clichés with any manipulated sequences of crisis.
It means that Tom Hanks has a tough job of keeping Finch engaging when he's the only human on screen, but if you're going to have any actor carry a movie by himself, you'd choose Hanks. It's an exceptional performance that takes the simple premise – a man, dog and his robot on a road trip – and elevates it into something affecting and life-affirming.
Hanks isn't completely alone in the movie though as Caleb Landry Jones filmed every scene with him on set. While Jeff is a CG creation, he's given life by Landry Jones' performance, including endearing quirks such as his little shivers when he gets something right. Jeff is a very human robot and is up there with the best on-screen androids.
When you add an adorable dog into the mix, it won't be a surprise to know from the synopsis that Finch is going to make you cry. Even the hardest of hearts will be moved by the final third, but because of the character work that's gone into all three characters, including Goodyear, it never feels manipulative.
As with the rest of the movie, Sapochnik avoids the obvious post-apocalyptic moments you might expect, such as a Heroic Sacrifice. He remains steadfastly focused on the smaller, quieter beats even when it comes to the climax, but they're no less effective than any grandstanding finale another version of Finch might have come up with.
Be warned though, you might not be able to watch a dog play fetch ever again without getting emotional.
Finch will be released on Apple TV+ on Friday, November 5.
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