65 (aka Untitled Scott Beck / Bryan Woods Project) review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
65 is precisely the film it promises to be, no more and no less. The poster and trailers have promised that Adam Driver will run around a prehistoric planet while firing at dinosaurs. That is indeed what happens in this film. If that’s all you’re hoping for, this may be an okay film to pass the time. And, yet, I find myself hoping for a bit more.
Driver plays Pilot Mills, a husband/father who takes intergalactic jobs to provide for his family. He resides on Somaris, which looks similar to Earth and has humans but is set 65 million years before the modern day. This provides the setup for his vessel to crash-land on Earth amid its most chaotic period. He ventures out into a wilderness to discover bloodthirsty dinosaurs inhabit it. And they’re soon to be extinct with a looming mass extinction event.
65 has many of the hallmarks you’d expect with this type of film. Mills longs for his family and deals with the devastation of being away from them for so long, as with him reviewing messages sent in a tearful reveal ala Interstellar. He befriends the ship's only survivor, a little girl called Koa (Ariana Greenblatt), who serves as his reason to live when all hope seems lost. They form a quiet bond as they try to fight off prehistoric beasts and find a way off the planet before they become fossils.
There’s a familiarity to this material, which may give the audience reason enough to strike it down as being a derivative blend of After Earth, Land of the Lost, and Lost in Space. While it’d be too easy and lazy to mark the film down so effortlessly, there’s not much in the film to distinguish it from the onslaught of lost-world sci-fi tales. For featuring such a generic title, it’s sure to get lost in the shuffle of this subgenre as well, where those wanting to recall the film might have to qualify it as “the Adam Driver dinosaur hunter movie.”
There isn’t much to say about this film beyond its spectacle. Driver performs fine, but he’s not given much to work with here. His mildly stoic character becomes a bore of going through the motions, highlighting his experience as a father when attending to the frightened Koa, who can’t speak English. The communication gap leads to the expected moments of connection, where Driver’s attempts to connect are both heartfelt and low-key amusing.
And, yes, the special effects are fine for this that is 75% running and gunning monsters of the prehistoric age. There are some solid sequences of outrunning dinosaurs, sneaking around trees, and finding clever ways to kill these man-eating beasts. Even some of the tech aboard Mills’s spaceship are cool. However, they’re more compelling for the assembly than the overall style, which mostly looks like a generic sci-fi military aesthetic.
65 feels very much like how the central character treats his piloting mission: A routine job. It does what it promises and puts forth the minimum effort to string together decently interesting characters in an orthodox tale of planetary survival. Directors Scott Beck and Bryan Woods do a good job with the staging, keeping the film bathed in crime and darkness to stress the danger, but it’s a far cry from their more compelling survival picture, A Quiet Place. So don’t go in expecting A Quiet Place with dinosaurs and guns. Tempered expectations are required to fully appreciate the sight of Driver piercing the skull of a dinosaur. And even then, there’s no guarantee how satisfying that kill will appear when bogged down with routine cliches.