The timing of Tom Hanks’ new movie Finch is either perfect or terrible, depending on your perspective. The sci-fi drama with an environmental context arrives on Apple TV + just as key leaders decide how to tackle the climate crisis at COP26 in Glasgow. If anyone can inspire people to change, surely it’s everyone’s favorite Oscar winner?
The film is directed by Miguel Sapochnik, best known for directing The Long Night episode of Game of Thrones. It stars Hank as Finch, an older man living alone in the aftermath of a climatic event that has left the ozone layer “like Swiss cheese” and much of the planet uninhabitable. Finch spends his days collecting parts for his bunker and food for his beloved dog, but those trips have taken their toll; he is slowly dying of radiation poisoning.
He builds a robot named Jeff (Caleb Landry Jones) to care for his pet, but just as Jeff finds his legs, the three must hit the road as a super storm hits their base. St Louis. On his way to San Francisco, Finch tries to teach Jeff how to survive with the time he has left.
In essence, it is a road trip with a man, his dog and his robot. You may remember Jones from his supporting roles in Three Billboards and Get Out, but you won’t recognize him here as he provides the moves and vocals for Jeff. The character is a mix of Wall-E and Johnny 5 from Short Circuit, wandering around Finch’s world with youthful exuberance but a habit of ignoring instructions. He’s charming, shouting a “Hello Dog!” to Finch’s suspicious dog, with a glitchy voice that sounds like a synthetic Borat. Far from a detached mo-cap performance, Jones brings humanity to the nuts and bolts, especially during the heartbreaking third act.
This innocence is paired with Hanks’ unique brand of sympathy, making the majority of the film a charming, odd couple’s adventure, albeit with a grim backdrop. These characters live with the consequences of humanity’s actions, and an added hunch comes from knowing that this is one of the many possibilities for our future. It’s a grim prospect, especially as the feeling grows that there may not be any cavalry coming to the rescue. However, Sapochnik and Hanks bring home the idea that if there is life, there is hope.
Finch has his issues, mostly an overreliance on sentimentality and stretched cinematic logic. But with two good storytellers at work, that will certainly leave a lot of them in a mess.