Synopsis – On a post-apocalyptic earth, a robot, built to protect the life of his creator’s beloved dog, learns about life, love, friendship and what it means to be human.
My Take – I think we all can agree that Tom Hanks is one of history’s greatest actors and doesn’t need an acting partner to make a scene or film work. A fact he proves once again in this latest Apple TV+ film which pairs him with a dog and a robot in a familiar post-apocalyptic film, which he elevates with his great talent and other elements.
Originally titled BIOS, the film, directed by TV veteran Miguel Sapochnik (Game of Thrones), written by Craig Luck and Ivor Powell, and boasts of Robert Zemeckis as one of its producers, is a heart-warming and compassionate film which will make you smile, laugh and cry with its moments.
Yes, we’ve seen bits and pieces of this one in many films like I Am Legend, Cast Away, Wall-E among others, yet it carries enough tenderness to see it through. Plus, Tom Hanks can do these characters in his sleep, so there are no surprises there.
Stir in some doomsday visuals, a dash of climate anxiety and a sprinkling of buddy comedy, the film works well enough as it combines simplicity earns its emotion, and provides a refreshing ambivalent view of a post-human future.
Set in a dystopian future were solar flares destroyed the ozone layer, increasing temperatures to 150 degrees Fahrenheit and turned the planet Earth into a largely-uninhabitable wasteland scorched by ultraviolet radiation, and subject to extreme weather events. The story follows Finch Weinberg (Tom Hanks), an aging robotics engineer and one of the few survivors, who lives alone with his dog Goodyear and a four-wheeled helper-robot Dewey in an underground St. Louis laboratory once owned by the company he worked for before the cataclysm.
Venturing outside only to search for supplies with a heat and ultraviolet-resistant protective suit. But now dying of an undisclosed event, Finch has been working on creating a more advanced humanoid robot companion (voiced by Caleb Landry Jones) to take care of his dog once he is gone. Filling him up with the knowledge of all the encyclopedias, instruction manuals, and guidebooks Finch found during his foraging missions. However, when a super-storm threatens Finch’s modest underground life, the three set off on a cross-country trip from St. Louis to San Francisco, to find other signs of life.
The premise might seem a little silly, a man and his android dog-sitter at the end of the world, director Sapochnik gives the story a sense of profound sincerity. While science only explains the plot’s backdrop, the screenplay focuses more on the heart-warming, emotional connection between human, animal, and robot, who chooses to go by the name Jeff, because he just wants to be an average guy.
Naturally, Jeff is a quick-if-bumbling study, and Jones gives him a modulated, softer voice to match his more fluid body movements, making him seem at times like a bratty, over-eager human teenager. It’s pretty funny, and more than a little touching, watching dog and robot discover a shared camaraderie, both unaware that they may be the forebears of a future civilization.
Though the three-hander premise and confined environments almost sound like opportunities to keep the budget down, the film is a visual treat thanks to a combination of sweeping vistas and clever CGI effects. The scorched vistas are convincingly realized, and Tom Meyer’s production design feels believably cobbled together: this is sci-fi without the sheen.
Sure, it can be a little corny at times, but the film works because of this, not in spite of it – in many ways, the film stumbles toward its ‘humanity’ in tandem with its awkward robot protagonist, a dynamic that helps goose the sizeable emotional payoff. With a jaunty soundtrack that further softens the portent, the film is proof that sci-fi dystopias needn’t be totally bleak.
Performance wise, Tom Hanks is as great as you’d expect him and brings the heart, soul and wisdom to an often-moving account of surviving the odds. And of course, Hanks has no problem being the only human on screen – he did it before, to better effect, in Cast Away (2000).
Caleb Landry Jones, an actor best known for playing oddball characters in films, makes for an endlessly entertaining co-star for Hanks, holding his own against and occasionally upstaging the six-time Oscar nominee with moments fun, frightening, and poignant at various points. On the whole, ‘Finch’ is a quirky post-apocalyptic road film made richer by its amiably charismatic star.
Directed – Miguel Sapochnik
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 155 minutes