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MOVIES: Finch - Review

Quite a lot of streamers are going big on post-apocalyptic drama right now of varying tones, and Finch joins the more optimistic side. HBO Max has the forthcoming Station Eleven from Emily St. John Mandel’s terrific novel. AppleTV+ itself has just had the second series of See. Over at Netflix, there’s Love & Monsters. Amazon has The Tomorrow War. Netflix, The Mitchells vs. the Machines – and so on, so forth. Miguel Sapochink’s Finch is the latest entry to AppleTV+’s roster, a feature-length film that follows a dying creator building a robot to protect his dog, Goodyear. Mercifully, unlike pretty much everything else above – Finch keeps it low key, there are only three characters – and only one of them is human. So when your only human with a major role in the film is Tom Hanks, you know you’re in with a safe bet of making something at least look watchable on paper.

Hanks’ films as of late have been nothing more – however; the finely-tuned Greyhound of last year and News of the World of this year at least see Hollywood’s most likeable everyman experimenting beyond his usual genres. This sees him venture into science fiction – something with a more hopeful and optimistic bent, much of the time that Hanks’ protagonist, the titular Finch, spends doing, is teaching his robot how to do basic things like a child, talk, walk, respond to jokes, and eventually pick his own name before learning how to drive. It’s a coming of age story by all accounts – only Caleb Landry Jones’ Jeff isn’t human.

Miguel Sapochnik experimented with advanced technology in the past in his 2010 film Repo Men, but this is first (and second ever) feature in a over a decade. Sapochnik has spent the last few years on Game of Thrones (directing The Long Night, which earned him a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series), True Detective, Masters of Sex and Banshee. His television track record is second to none and that gives him a distinct sensibility when moving over to Finch that betrays a well-crafted, workmanlike drama that doesn’t quite manage to reach the next level to separate it from just being another streamer offering - let down by an unimaginative script that plays it safe that can both be a blessing and a curse. It starts promising – Hanks sings along to American Pie, putting him in exclusive company with Black Widow from this year alone, and whilst nothing here is new, per say, Finch delights in the familiar – pulling at the emotional heartstrings in a way that fans of Tom Hanks’ work have come to expect. The character relationships are where this film shines, and thanks to an impressive vocal performance by Caleb Landry Jones, the bond between human and robot feels real as human and dog. Sometimes a simpler approach is a decidely welcome one, free from the confines of grander, more convoluted affairs - it's to his credit that Hanks still makes movies of this ilk and it is something we should rightly praise him for.

The Earth itself that Finch finds himself in is the victim of an environmental catastrophe that ripped apart the ozone layer, transforming the planet into a giant desert straight out of Mad Max. Finch, already an outsider before civilization started – hard to trust, much like his dog – has a constant warning that keeps him to mostly small towns, cities are out of the question. For all he knows, the only survivors are Jeff, Goodyear and Finch – the only others he recalls in flashbacks, that are among the darkest parts of the film, giving you a rough idea of where he is headed.

Finch may be shy of jeopardy – not demonstrating the tension of say, Love & Monsters, but it doesn’t really need it. It’s a road-trip movie through the post-apocalyptic terrain that can’t help at times feel frustratingly anti-climatic, something which is a problem not unique to Finch but more of a symptom of a wider streaming network problem. The film never quite reaches the depth it needs to be anything more than a light, surface watch – easily watched, enjoyable in the moment, but quickly forgotten. Sometimes that’s all you need, but Finch will dissapoint those who go in hoping for more.

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