Director: Miguel Sapochnik
Writers: Craig Luck and Ivor Powell
Stars: Tom Hanks, Caleb Landry Jones, Seamus the Dog
At the end of the world, an old engineer is dying. Having been exposed to too much radiation and harmful ultraviolet light coming through Earth’s broken ozone layer, his body is giving up. He knows that his end is coming, but he tries to keep himself alive as long as possible, as he is not alone. He needs someone to take care of his dog after he is gone, so he builds a robot. And he soon realizes that he has a new family with him at the end.
The post-apocalyptic science fiction film Finch came almost out of nowhere for me. I did watch the trailer back when that first came out, but it didn’t tell me much. The list of films I had on my reviewing list was becoming long anyway, so I forgot about this one, even though Finch was a science fiction film (we’re kind of into that here at FilmLore.) But recently, I noticed it again on my list of screeners and previews from Apple TV+, and I put it on. And it hit me right in the heart!
In this film, we meet engineer Finch, played by Tom Hanks. Finch spends his days trying to survive in the post-apocalyptic landscape that the world has become. The one-two punch of human-caused environmental destruction and a massive solar flare ruined much of the ozone layer. In the catastrophe that followed, the surviving humans did what humans do best; they went to war over the remaining resources. Now, the world is a blasted wasteland of electrical superstorms, radiation and deadly ultraviolet light.
Finch spends his days systematically scavenging the city for supplies for himself and his dog Goodyear (played by an excellent dog named Seamus). A self-described coward, he shelters in his well-stocked bunker at night, avoiding other desperate survivors who might cause him and his dog harm. The nights are spent building his technological masterpiece: a robot to take care of Goodyear when he is gone. Knowledge is scanned into his creation from the many books he has collected, most importantly, how to take care of dogs.
And when Finch turns on his creation, he is surprised to see his small family grow. The robot, who soon calls himself Jeff, is voiced with heart and wide-eyed wonder by Caleb Landry Jones. Jeff’s conversations with Finch, and his attempts to get the dog Goodyear to trust him, is both heartwarming and, at times, emotionally heart-wrenching. The robot’s eagerness, enthusiasm, and the dialogues between the three members of this strange, little family had me wiping tears through several scenes. In this low-key, character-driven film about the end of the world, I was surprised to find Tom Hanks at the top of his already considerable game.
The family soon finds itself on the road heading west to escape an electrically charged superstorm. Finch is in many ways a classic road movie set in a blasted, post-apocalyptic landscape. Director Miguel Sapochnik might be a master of creating colossal battle scenes, sweeping vistas and futuristic cityscapes, as we have seen in shows like The Game of Thrones and Altered Carbon. He brings much of these visuals with him to Finch, which at times reminded me of other films in the genre, perhaps most notably Gary Whitta’s The Book of Eli and Francis Lawrence’s I Am Legend (minus the zombie-vampire-things).
But where other films in the genre have plenty of action and chases, Finch has heart. With Finch, Sapochnik shows that he can take the post-apocalyptic drama convincingly to a place it seldom goes: a small, dialogue-driven and intimate family drama. It is visually stunning, to be sure, with some of the most impressive post-apocalyptic cityscapes, vistas and storms I’ve seen. There is excitement to be found too, but these things are not the main driving forces in this story.
And that’s really all there is to it. Finch is a surprising and hopeful tale about family, hope and loss at the end of the world. It is not complicated, and it’s not meant to be, but it works. And although it has some impressive special effects, most notably in the way it creates its robot Jeff with motion capture and some excellent CGI, what drives it is the quiet scenes of dialogue and the way the old engineer tries to prepare his creation, or rather, his “child” for a world without him.
This is a film I won’t forget anytime soon.
Finch premieres on Apple TV+ on November 5th.