Apple TV+ film review: Finch
James R | On 06, Nov 2021
Director: Miguel Sapochnik
Cast: Tom Hanks, Caleb Landry Jones
Where to watch Finch online in the UK: Apple TV+
They don’t make post-apocalyptic sci-fi films like they used to. That’s the kind of strangely nostalgic feeling you get from Finch, Apple TV+’s new film. Starring Tom Hanks, it’s part road trip, part buddy flick, part survival thriller and part robot drama – and all kinds of charming.
While you might expect that charm to stem from Hanks, though, what’s impressive about Finch is that the real star of the show is his computerised companion. Voiced by Caleb Landry Jones, he’s invented by Hanks’ lone survivor Finch so that there’s someone around to continue Finch’s work when he’s gone. From the nasty cough that Finch can’t quite shift, we know he’s not got long. What’s the work he needs to carry on in his absence? Not saving the human race – we join him in the desert wasteland of Earth, too late for humankind to be rescued – and not even saving the desolate planet. His mission? To look after Goodyear, a dog he picked up while scavenging for supplies in abandoned towns.
It becomes apparent over the film’s gently paced runtime that the Earth was wiped out by an environmental catastrophe, with the ozone layer now patchy enough to allow radiation through. But such details are dealt with lightly by the script – co-written by Craig Luck and Ivor Powell – which makes a point of keeping the focus not on CGI spectacle but on its central odd couple.
That’s not to say, though, that the visuals aren’t impressive: director Miguel Sapochnik (a Game of Thrones veteran) delivers some sublimely subtle world-building, from the camper van that Finch drives around, filled with relics, memories and hard-worn resources, to the lab in which Finch scans books to feed into his robot’s artificial intelligence brain. Even the fundamentals of robotics are addressed briefly in a passing nod to Isaac Asimov’s protective laws. The result is a universe that feels immediately lived-in. Whatever scenario comes up, Finch has learned how to deal with it, and that quiet competence is worn with wit and gravitas by Hanks, whose everyman wisdom is turned up to 11.
As for the robot (who calls himself “Jeff”), it’s impossible not to be won over by his deceptively human behaviour. From his exuberant enthusiasm to his childlike ignorance, he’s initially irritating in the most plausible way, and Jones’ vocals gradually soften into something decidedly less mechanical as we – and Finch – warm to him. That rounded, heartfelt characterisation is backed up by some excellent motion-capture work that gives a physicality to his and Finch’s interactions.
The dog, too, is allowed a surprising amount of autonomy and nuance – “He’s not mine, he’s his own dog,” insists Finch – which helps make the overall aim of the film oddly convincing: with nothing else left to fight for in this post-apocalyptic disaster-scape, the stakes here are emotional rather than existential, and Hanks, Jones and their canine counterpart sink their teeth into it.
Do androids dream of electric sheep? That’s trumped here by the question of whether an android can go for walkies and throw a tennis ball. Somewhere between Silent Running and Robot and Frank, the result isn’t a suspenseful ride or a dazzling blockbuster, but this decidedly understated sci-fi fable works because its scope is so narrow – and its heart is so wide.
Finch is available on Apple TV+, as part of a £4.99 monthly subscription, with a seven-day free trial. For more information on Apple TV+ and how to get it, click here.