Director Miguel Sapochnik‘s “Finch” opens with the familiar end-of-the-world scenario: we see a man (Tom Hanks) all alone on a deserted, destroyed planet. The man is named Finch, and he’s a robotics engineer who has lived in an underground bunker for the last decade with his canine companion, Goodyear. Things feel too familiar story-wise for a while, until it’s revealed that Finch, faced with his own life nearing its end, is building a robot with one mission only: to take care of his beloved dog when he’s gone.
Tugging on those old heartstrings, isn’t it? Screenwriters Craig Luck and Ivor Powell are masterful at manipulating emotions, and animal lovers will want to keep a box of tissues handy. This sweet, eccentric film is a tearjerker and buddy movie all wrapped into one. It’s not heavy on the science fiction angle, as a massive solar flare that has wiped out civilization is only used as a plot device rather than a major event in the film.
As Finch is ailing from radiation poisoning, he constructs Jeff (Caleb Landry Jones), a rough-hewn droid with humanlike qualities. While uploading data one night, a huge storm cloud approaches and the man, his dog, and his robot must set out together to find a safer haven. They embark on a dangerous journey in a converted RV in a weird post-apocalyptic road trip adventure, uncertain of what may be lurking beyond their bunker walls.
It’s a good premise that offers a different spin on other “last man on Earth” films. The story can be cloying and overly-sentimental to a fault, and the majority of the movie will feel that way to many. But Hanks is reliably solid in the leading man role, and it’s hard not to be charmed at least a little by the sweet innocence of Jeff’s view of the world.
One element that makes the film work so well is that the story puts the characters in real danger, with scenarios that feel like the stakes are actually high. You’ll need to prepare yourself to suspend disbelief (a lot) while watching, but some of the most memorable moments (like a desert tornado) are also the most ridiculous when approached from a practical standpoint. Try to prevent your brain from asking the hard questions and just go along for the ride.
I was charmed tenfold by “Finch,” and you will be, too. It’s an unexpectedly moving, earnest tale of friendship and what it means to be human.