Scott Beck and Bryan Woods’ 65 is a film with an excellent high-concept premise and a great deal of on-paper potential. Adam Driver has thoroughly proven himself in the last decade to be one of the better talents of his generation, the filmmakers were the screenwriters of the thrilling and successful A Quiet Place, and the idea of having a humanoid alien who crash lands on Earth 65 million years in the past has a lot of exciting promise. Driver vs. Dinosaurs – how bad could it be? As it turns out, the answer to that question isn’t “it’s really bad” so much as it is “it’s surprisingly boring.”
Release Date: March 10, 2023
Directed By: Scott Beck and Bryan Woods
Written By: Scott Beck and Bryan Woods
Starring: Adam Driver, Ariana Greenblatt, Nika King, and Chloe Coleman
Rating: PG-13, for intense sci-fi action and peril, and brief bloody images
Runtime: 93 minutes
After a clunky, on-screen text-filled opening that sets up the general plot, 65 is never able to move out of neutral and do much with its conceit. Instead of featuring Adam Driver dramatically and creatively fighting for survival and escape while using extraterrestrial technology to fight off our world’s carnivorous, monstrous lizards, the movie settles for developing overused plot devices and character dynamics to unfurl a familiar story with nothing identifiably original to offer audiences.
In 65, Driver plays Mills, a spaceship pilot from the planet Somaris who agrees to take a two-year long trip across the stars so that he can make enough money to afford treatment for his terminally ill daughter (Chloe Coleman). On the journey back home, the ship Mills is flying encounters a flurry of asteroids that cause it to crash land on an uncharted world. Because the movie can’t find a way to properly communicate the information to movie-goers, a title card delivers the necessary exposition: “65 Million Years Ago, A Visitor Crash Landed On Earth.”
Just as you get excited starting to wonder how the movie is going to narratively function with Mills being all alone on a planet filled with flesh-eating monsters that see him as an exotic meal, the film opts to not even try. It turns out that the protagonist isn’t actually alone, and that there instead is one passenger on the ship whose cryo-pod managed to survive the crash. Mills rescues and wakes up Koa (Ariana Greenblatt), a nine-year-old girl who doesn’t speak the same language as the hero. A la recent shows like The Mandalorian or The Last Of Us or recent movies including James Mangold’s Logan, George Clooney’s Midnight Sky, and Clint Eastwood’s Cry Macho, Miles if forced to become a surrogate parent for the helpless child and do everything he can to shepherd them to safety.
65 is devoid of any exciting, original, or compelling plot points; it’s all by the numbers action.
A high-tech guidance system tells Mills and Koa that a functioning shuttle is on the top of a nearby mountain and can be used to escape the planet – and while there is nothing inherently wrong with the simplicity of that narrative, the problem is that the movie offers nothing to spice things up and make the story compelling beyond the basics of the circumstance. There are moments where they are attacked by dinosaurs and they temporarily get stuck in places, but they are the plot equivalent of speedbumps because there is no effort made to develop more advanced stakes.
You’d think that at the very least alien technology would be able to spice things up a bit, but the movie is unable to strike a balance between implementing cool, futuristic tools and making sure that Mills and Koa always seem desperate and in danger. The most clever usage of anything is using metal marble-like explosives to try and excavate a cave in which the characters are stuck… and even the results of that are underwhelming and undramatic.
Getting excited about dynamic, different dinosaur action in 65 would be a mistake.
With 65 unable to deliver on the more sci-fi side of the story, one would hope it could hit the gas pedal with the dinosaur action, but it’s just another area where the film falls flat. It’s arguably unfair to compare the movie to the high standard that is Jurassic Park, but you’d think that it would take some lessons about what works in that classic and apply them. A big part of the fun in that franchise is seeing the diversity of species and identifying them from memorable fossils seen in natural history museums. Aside from one herbivore that the characters rescue from a tar pit and a few flying dinos that have no significant presence, there are basically just three kinds of dinosaurs: tiny carnivores, medium carnivores, and giant carnivores.
None of them have special qualities that make them stand out; they might as well just be alien lizards with sharp teeth and claws… which kind of defeats the whole point of the film. To the film’s credit, there is one attempt made at trying to add an extra layer of depth to Mills’ conflict with the dinosaurs, with 65 setting up a “rematch” in the third act with what may or may not be a T-Rex from the second act, but the effort is so minimal and ultimately blink-or-miss-it that I wouldn’t be surprised if a large percentage of audiences don’t pick up on it.
If 65 predated the Jurassic World trilogy and Hollywood’s present obsession with the Lone Wolf And Cub dynamic, it would perhaps be seen to have a lot more merit – but as is, it missed its sweet spot release period by a decade, and as such doesn’t have much to offer. It leans more toward “disappointing” than “awful,” but at least “awful” would have made it more interesting.
NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.
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