It’s been a while since Tom Hanks has made anything worthy of Tom Hanks save for A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, and even Marielle Heller’s lovely film benefited more from Tom Hanks than Hanks benefited from the script. In an industry that caters to superhero fans or awards season — and very little in between — Hanks has had some difficulty carving out a niche for himself. Movies like News of the World, Greyhound, and Sully are fine, but mostly because Hanks elevates them from forgettable to that movie with Tom Hanks on the boat, or Tom Hanks on the plane, or Tom Hanks on the stagecoach. They work, to the extent they do, because of the force of Tom Hanks’ likability.
Finch is yet another entry into that category of Hanks film, the one with Tom Hanks and a dog and robot. Hanks is phenomenal, because — outside of those Robert Langdon movies — it’s the only gear he has. But it’s not enough to elevate a script as generic and derivative as the one here written by Craig Luck and Ivor Powell. The entire film hangs on Hanks’ shoulders, and while he’s plenty strong enough to hold it up, it rips like tissue paper under the weight of gravity and burns into maudlin cinders in the extreme heat of the film’s sun.
Finch is another Last Man on Earth post-apocalyptic film, something akin to Chappie meets The Walking Dead and Cast Away. Here, Wilson the Volleyball is played by an adorable dog. The earth is a desert wasteland, burned up by some sort of solar event, and Finch (Hanks) — a robotics engineer — lives alone in the abandoned headquarters of a technology company, leaving only long enough to scavenge for cans of food in barren supermarkets and stores like something out of every single episode of The Walking Dead, ever.
A catastrophic storm is coming, supplies are low, and Finch is dying (from radiation exposure), so it’s time to get the hell out of Dodge. Finch has been working on a robot named Jeff (voiced by Caleb Landry Jones) for just such an occasion. The idea is to drive to San Francisco in an RV, and on the road trip West, Finch will teach Jeff the Robot everything he needs to know to take care of the dog after Finch dies.
That’s it. That’s the movie.
Credit goes to Hanks for the fact that a two-hour movie never feels that long. As amiable and pleasant as the journey might be, however, not even Hanks can provide the film with any real stakes. I love dogs. Dogs are great! John Wick shot like 100 people in the face because of a dog! But climate change has killed much of humanity, Finch is dying, and we’re supposed to care about a dog whose most substantive contribution to the film is fetching a tennis ball? I get that the low stakes may be the point of the film — that we can find hope in a dog and his robot friend in even the worst of times — but the robot isn’t that impressive, basically an overgrown Johnny 5 who can drive an RV, and how long is that dog going to live, anyway? I want to see the sequel, where Jeff the Robot — whose primary directive is to protect the dog at all cost — loses its last shred of humanity killing starving survivors who want to make a meal out of the pup.
It’s not a bad movie, though. What Tom Hanks movies are (aside from the Langdon offerings, and maybe Larry Crowne)? Director Miguel Sapochnik builds an impressive world, the special effects are outstanding, and the film is briskly paced, even if it feels like one of those long car drives where you zone out and forget the last 100 miles. It’s just that there’s nothing here we haven’t seen before in better films, most of which (save for Cast Away) do not feature Hanks. Originally scheduled to open in theaters, Finch — like Greyhound before it — feels like a movie that belongs on Apple TV+. That’s not a knock against it, exactly, except to say that it wouldn’t have been worth the price of a theater ticket and I doubt it’d have benefited from the big-screen experience all that much, either. But for a Saturday night at home with the family? It’s serviceable enough.
Finch is available to stream on Apple TV+ as of November 5, 2021.