What would you do, really, if you were the last person left on Earth? We’ve seen so many stories about post-apocalyptic worlds where one person has to survive alone, pushed to the very limits of human endurance. So, what would you do? Hang out with a cute dog and design a robot, perhaps? Well, the robot thing might not be for everyone nor in anyone’s capabilities but if you’re Tom Hanks, that’s the cards you have been dealt. It seems the Oscar winner has an affection for both dogs (see Turner and Hooch) and has something “strange” as a companion (see Cast Away) so here in this Robert Zemeckis-produced fable, he gets to have both.
The Earth has been scorched beyond all recognition and the human race has been wiped from the planet: solar flares have raised UV to such a degree that for anyone who did survive – such as scientist Finch and his dog – going outside is a no go. But the after-effects have taken their toll on Finch and in his ailing final few months, he has designed a robot to help keep his dog company when he dies. Before then, he wants to see the Golden Gate Bridge and decides to take his strange companions across the country for one final moment of beauty.
Right off the bat you’ll get thinking “been there, done that” and for the most part, yes, Finch is completely derivative of similarly themed films brought to the screen before and takes its influences from everything from Short Circuit, E.T. (in fact, Spielberg’s fingerprints can be seen all over it), I Am Legend and more but imitation is the sincerest form of flattery as we know and, for the most part, this one works pretty well. Fuelled by Hanks’ usual everyman persona mixed with a more gruff sadness, there’s a sincerity and sweetness to Finch that, like those aforementioned films, raises it above the usual cliches, even if it doesn’t avoid them completely.
Miguel Sapochnik, a filmmaker who has cut his creative teeth in television on everything from Game of Thrones, True Detective, Falling Skies and Fringe – as well as the best forgotten Repo Men starring Jude Law – brings all that collective experience together to create an immersive film about this particular end of the world that works best when it focuses on the more human moments than what’s actually going on. While everything is going to hell (quite literally), Finch draws on Hanks’ skillset to bring this peculiar but ultimately touching film about what it means to be human, to feel, to empathise, and to love even if your heart is figuratively two sizes too small or made of metal. Indeed, much kudos has to be given to Caleb Landry Jones, who continues to excel in his recent career surge with a truly moving and funny performance as Jeff (best robot name ever), with motion capture utilised beautifully to realise his portrayal to its fullest.
There are some moments that don’t quite work and its finale while plucking at the heartstrings in the best possible way, feels incomplete as if there was a need to sprint to the finish line rather than take its time, undoing some of the excellent work that precedes it. Nevertheless, when it’s tuned right, Finch is a warm, inviting throwback to the 80s and 90s when such stories were at their peak, as was Hanks who is, as ever, nothing short of wonderful.
Drama, Adventure | USA, 2021 | 5th November 2021 | Apple TV+ | Dir. Miguel Sapochnik | Tom Hanks, Caleb Landry Jones