Not Even Tom Hanks Can Salvage Robot Road Trip Movie Finch
2/5 can openers.
Few actors have both the talent and charisma to anchor a one-man movie. Luckily for us, Tom Hanks is just such an actor, whose relatability and compelling onscreen presence had already completed that feat with the 2000 survival drama Cast Away. As a FedEx employee who was the sole survivor of a plane crash, Hanks spent much of that film’s runtime delivering a captivating solo performance, with only a volleyball as a co-star.
21 years later, Hanks stars in Finch, a science fiction fable on Apple TV+ about another lost man vulnerable to the elements. Hanks’ Finch Weinberg is one of the few survivors after a solar flare burns through the atmosphere, rendering Earth mostly uninhabitable. UV radiation is so severe that any living things in direct sunlight get scorched, and Finch can only venture outside in protective gear. But despite his ingenuity and survival skills, years of living under intense radiation have poisoned him. And when Finch dies, there will be no one to care for his sole companion, rescue dog Goodyear.
Finch, a robotics engineer, uses his genius to create a sentient robot named Jeff (portrayed via motion capture by Caleb Landry Jones). As a massive weather event descends on what was once St. Louis, Finch must train Jeff how to survive in the post-apocalyptic world and care for Goodyear. Together, the trio hit the road for San Francisco, which is rumored to be livable.
From here the film shifts into road trip gear, as Jeff learns how to walk, talk, and scavenge for food under Finch’s tutelage. Along the way they must contend with brutal weather extremes, bloodthirsty survivors, and Finch’s ailing health. Jeff also learns what it is to be human from Finch, as Finch learns of the importance of companionship.
The film, directed by Miguel Sapochnik (Repo Men, Game of Thrones) is finely shot but riddled with clichés. A robot’s journey to understand humanity is well-worn territory that dates back to Fritz Lang’s 1927 film Metropolis, and has been dissected in everything from Blade Runner to A.I. to Big Hero Six. Jeff the robot adds nothing new to the conversation, and is unfortunately saddled with a voice that sounds like someone auto-tuned Borat.
Hanks is excellent (he always is) but even his prodigious talent can’t salvage a robot coming-of-age story with not much new to say. There are beautifully crafted moments littered throughout the film, but they just don’t gel together into a cohesive film. And at an hour and 55 minutes, the film long overstays its welcome.
And it’s a shame, because Finch is the kind of pared-down science fiction story we rarely see anymore. In a genre jampacked with endless empires and esoteric mythology, these quiet films can stand out as hidden gems. Unfortunately, Finch just never reaches the heights it aspires to.
Finch is currently streaming on Apple TV+.
(image: Apple TV+)
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