Landing somewhere between Castaway and The Martian, Miguel Sapochnik’s apocalyptic sci-fi road movie lands on Apple TV as something of a coup; Tom Hanks remains something of a national and international treasure, a well-loved actor whose films are still big news. While Finch is somewhat derivative and familiar, with elements of A Boy and His Dog, WALLE and Silent Running to boot, it’s also slick, enjoyable, and just about earns its right to be sentimental.
Global warming has destroyed the ozone layer, and the Earth is a desolate shadow of itself. One of the few survivors is Finch (Hanks), who is slowly raiding some St Louis supermarkets for the last few cans of edible material, and searching for dog-food for his canine companion. Finch also has a robot dog, and constructs a robotic companion too. Eventually taking the name Jeff, and voiced by Caleb Landry Jones, Jeff functions like a son to Finch, and we soon find out why his construction is necessary; Finch knows that he is going to die soon, and is hoping to train Jeff to take responsibility for his pal. Dust storms, off-screen assailants and other issues get in the way of the trio’s trek to San Francisco Bridge, with life-lessons learned and a sense of their hard-scrabble life revealed.
Finch isn’t altogether satisfying in conveying the central situation; it’s never quite explained how Finch survived where others didn’t, not is it clear who else is around; it’s suggested that the depletion of resources turned mankind against itself, which is topical enough, but striking details like the graffiti-covered hospital they visit are suggestive rather than sharp. But it’s hard to argue that Finch doesn’t work on some level; Jeff is a quite remarkably empathetic creation, begging for campfire stories, knees trembling with anticipations, or shoulders hunched over the steering wheel on the vehicle that he erratically drives. Jeff is a great special effect, and provides a great foil for Hanks’ stoic performance, which offers the same external growth than his largely wordless turn in Castaway.
It’s not hard to see why Apple TV+ would go for Finch as a property to acquire; it feels like an advert, at times, for how technology can help us on a physical and emotional level, together with some finger-wagging about the state we’ve allowed the environment to get into. The conclusion may be a little pat, but while Hanks and Jeff are bickering their way through the desert of America, there’s plenty of charm to spare in this robotic Odd Couple.