Director: Miguel Sapochnik
Starring: Tom Hanks and Caleb Landry Jones
Run time: 1h 55min
Tom Hanks is no stranger to playing characters forced to endure their own company and fight for survival for several days or even years. Castaway and the more recent News of the World employed his ability to command the screen with little to no dialogue and, in Finch with only a dog and a robot for company, he once again proves why he’s possibly the greatest actor of his generation.
Finch is similar to Castaway but set in a dystopian world that has been ravaged by gamma rays and solar flares. The ozone layer is “like Swiss cheese” quickly scorching skin in seconds with UV and radiation levels dangerously high. Hanks is Finch, an engineering wiz and inventor who was lucky to survive the apocalyptic event that turned the world into a barren wasteland. Donning a radiation suit and only venturing outside when he must, he has survived for over a decade hiding out in his underground work bunker in St. Louis by scavenging shops (tinned peaches anyone?) and avoiding the desperate packs of unpredictable people at night. Using his technical nous, he’s rigged up some clever gizmos that warn him of potential threats such as incoming storms and whether he needs sun cream or not.
Keeping him sane throughout all this is Goodyear, a loveable dog he rescued early on in his plight. Planning for the future, Finch creates a robot, Jeff (Caleb Landry Jones). Jeff’s sole purpose is to look after Goodyear once Finch is no longer able to. When a storm approaches that will last over 40 days and basically kill them, the trio are forced to leave their shelter and begin an almost 2000-mile road trip towards the hoped-for safety of San Francisco. Goodyear takes an instant dislike to Jeff and so Finch is challenged to bring the pair together. Navigating their way through the dangerous roads where it’s not just the weather that means them harm, Finch teaches Jeff what it means to be human and encourages him to understand the complex emotional attachments involved.
Director Miguel Sapochnik and cinematographer Jo Willems have created a haunting, dry and desolate world. There’s a claustrophobic air to proceedings despite the vast city surroundings. Set pieces including being caught in the eye of a tornado and a visit to the hospital are incredibly tense, but there are many funny moments too. There’s a childlike innocence to Jeff as he begins his life and he’s an instantly likeable character. Sounding uncannily like Borat, his naivety and eagerness to learn is amusingly charming and his enthusiasm is infectious.
Tom Hanks is once again at his mesmerising best. Effortlessly switching between comedy and drama and fully believable as a man who has seen so much devastation only to retain that flicker of hope for a better world. The relationship between man and machine is something we’ve seen before, but thanks to the combined efforts of the talent on display as well as that behind the camera this film stands out. It’s a highly relevant film for today as well. The fear and uncertainty that something as simple as going outside presents is something many will relate to. A hug and a butterfly taking flight offer delicate moments of poignancy and remind us that things will get better as the world heals itself.
Emotionally challenging and ultimately heart-warming, Finch is thoroughly charming and a wonderful exploration of friendship, love and hope.
Finch is available to stream globally on Apple TV+ from November 5th.