Finch movie review: A reliably warm Tom Hanks in Apple TV's old-fashioned tearjerker
The when-is-he-never-in-form Tom Hanks shoulders this lighthearted post-apocalyptic film with every ounce of sincerity in his body.
Hollywood’s nicest™ actor Tom Hanks has been going through a mentor phase for the better part of the last decade.
Whether it is being taken a hostage by the Somali pirates to protect the rest of his crew in Paul Greengrass’s Captain Phillips, executing a miracle landing on the Hudson river in Clint Eastwood’s Sully, or playing the venerable TV host and minister Fred Rogers in Marielle Heller’s A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood, Hanks remains one of the last old-school movie stars lending a voice to Hollywood’s collective conscience. In a time when IPs, franchises, and spin-offs have become buzzwords, Hanks remains a polite-but-firm dissident.
In TV veteran Miguel Sapochnik’s Finch, Hanks plays Finch Weinberg, the last human survivor in a post-apocalyptic St Louis, Missouri. Primarily a robotics engineer, Finch is a one-man army working tirelessly on technical innovations, while surviving a barely habitable planet. The ozone layer has disappeared around the planet, meaning anyone who steps out in the sunlight gets burned by the Ultra-Violet radiation. At night, it is even worse with the human survivors going around taking what they can. Finch is at a point where he is especially distrustful of human beings, his only company being an Irish Terrier called Goodyear.
After realising that his days are limited, Finch builds a robot Jeff (voiced by Caleb Landry Jones) to take care of the dog while he is gone. It is a plotline that has echoes of Hanks’ own films like Turner & Hooch, where Hanks teamed up with a bulldog to solve a murder case. Finch and Goodyear’s journey through the Utah desert towards the West coast, is reminiscent of Hanks’s similar journey in News of The World, where he accompanies a Native American girl right in the aftermath of the bloody civil war. There is a scene towards the end where a car pursues Finch’s RV, which might remind some of Steven Spielberg’s Duel, whose production company Amblin Entertainment is one of the co-producers on the film. Another executive producer on the film is Robert Zemeckis, who made Castaway with Hanks, where he played a man deserted on an island by himself.
Finch is a film that some might argue an Artificial Intelligence algorithm would come up with, once it was fed with Hanks’s entire body of work and his closest collaborators (Spielberg, Zemeckis, Howard etc). It is dangerously close to a parody, and yet it somehow remains on the right side of the line even when it is shamelessly corny. Thanks to a when-is-he-never-in-form Tom Hanks, who shoulders the film with every ounce of sincerity in his body. Even opposite a dog and robot, who initially cannot speak, Hanks delivers the expository dialogue using his trademark light touch.
A born leader, Hanks delivers a nice touch in a scene when he is asked how he figured out a complex snag in a project. “I knew the right thing to say. So, I said ‘I wouldn’t be able to do it without the team’” Finch tells Jeff, explaining to him the importance of “trust”. Even though it was he who solved the problem by himself, Finch extended the courtesy to his team, so they would have his back in the future. It is an unlikely team, where Jeff, with all his newfound knowledge, is grappling with concepts like human experience. Landry-Jones as Jeff has the right amount of curiosity in his voice while conversing with Finch, relentlessly posing questions to him about his life.
These exchanges between Finch and Jeff form the core of the film, where Finch educates, admonishes, and learns from the android meant to take care of Goodyear.
Credit to Hanks’ inherent goodness, that even at his worst, Finch is better than most of us on our good days.
As a post-apocalyptic film releasing in the midst of a pandemic, Finch might also remind some of George Clooney-starrer The Midnight Sky. However, while Clooney’s last-man-on-the-planet film was specifically designed to be minimalist, Hanks plays to the gallery with his goofiness. Especially in a scene where he opens up a packet of corn kernels in the 60 degree heat outdoors, so as to see them pop. “Lesson no 6, live a little," Finch tells Jeff.
Sapochink, who has helmed a couple of the landmark spectacles on TV (including "Battle of the Bastards" and "The Long Night" from Game of Thrones), ensures the big tornado set piece in the film is thrilling. Jo Willems offers up a couple of sensational frames, especially towards the end of the film, in the desert mountains.
Finch is a sentimental toast to a message behind some of the most popular films of our times: to put aside our differences, and to be able to cohabitate. Especially in a world that is becoming more polarised with each passing day. Remember, when the movies would teach us about goodness? Maybe it is fitting the one representing us is Tom Hanks: the best there has ever been.
Finch is streaming on Apple TV+.
Tatsam Mukherjee has been working as a film journalist since 2016. He is based out of Delhi NCR.
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