Scott McDaniel: Humanity endures in post-apocalyptic ‘Finch’

Apple TV+’s new post-apocalyptic film is “Castaway” meets “WALL-E,” and that makes for a touching survival story about what makes us human.

Tom Hanks is “Finch,” a robotics engineer and one of the few people on earth to survive a solar flare that wiped out most of the planet. Severe radiation and temperatures around 150 degrees force him to stay underground, except when he ventures out to scavenge for food wearing a protective suit. He’s not totally alone, joined by his lovable dog Goodyear and the robots he creates.

With a deadly storm approaching his location, he finishes his walking, talking robot later known as Jeff (Caleb Landry Jones) and he and his companions pack up and travel west by daylight into the unknown.

Finch explains that they don’t travel at night because that’s when desperate surviving humans go on the prowl. It’s disappointing how this element is underutilized in the movie. I expected deadly bandits to challenge Finch’s crew, or a positive twist in meeting another human who has kept their humanity. Instead, other humans are pretty much left out of the journey.

We learn early that Finch isn’t well from the radiation he’s constantly exposed to, and given the circumstances it’s hard to see a reason to go on. Enter Tom Hanks, excellent as always, portraying a man who after many years has earned a certain wisdom and come to terms with this new world and his role in it. When there doesn’t seem like a lot to live for, he finds something to dedicate himself to: in this case, his dog Goodyear, and he programs his new robot Jeff to take care of the pooch after he’s gone.

It’s a dialogue-heavy film, with father-son conversations between Finch and Jeff. At times, Hanks’ delivery feels a bit whimsical and overdone, but it fits the acceptance of his worn-down character.

Caleb Landry Jones (“The Outpost,” “Get Out”) voices Jeff, and after sounding like Borat early on, he evolves into a thoughtful machine that questions the meaning of life. Jeff often struggles with the rules of life because as a newly built machine it does not have Finch’s experiences. It has the book smarts, literally scanned into its memory, but it doesn’t have the worldly experiences that make things real.

That seems to be the theme of the movie — to understand your place in the world, even a post-apocalyptic one, you need to experience what life has to offer.

Director Miguel Sapochnik’s most noteworthy work to this point has been in TV, with hit shows like “Game of Thrones” and “House.” Going big with a Tom Hanks sci-fi flick, Sapochnik doesn’t disappoint.

But it’s a Tom Hanks film through and through, with the veteran actor embodying a veteran survivor who finds his Wilson (“Castaway” reference) in his dog and his creations.

“Finch” is about as charming as an end-of-the-world story can get.


“Finch” is on Apple TV+.

Scott McDaniel is a journalist who lives with his wife and three kids in Bargersville. He is an adjunct professor of journalism courses.