Adam Driver fights to survive on prehistoric Earth in this entertaining popcorn movie
Dirs/scr: Scott Beck, Bryan Woods. US. 2023, 93 mins.
Adam Driver gives the type of performance almost never associated with an action film in 65, a highly efficient thriller from the writers of A Quiet Place. There’s a lot in here which is familiar, as Scott Beck and Bryan Woods – who also direct – mix dinosaurs with space travel while also adding the father/daughter narrative which is currently ruling the airwaves in The Last Of Us (and also has a mother/daughter space antecedent in Aliens). We’ve seen the bones of this creature before, for sure, but some terrific GGI monsters, swampy scares and Driver’s committed performance make 65 a snap-toothed popcorn multiplex movie which, at 93 minutes, is sprightly in comparison with its lumbering rivals.
Terrific GGI monsters, swampy scares and Driver’s committed performance make 65 a snap-toothed popcorn multiplex movie
As Commander Mills, a space pilot from a time before mankind existed, Driver has no superpowers – just some cool Star Trek-like gadgetry and a good gun – when his ship crashes on an unknown planet, ahem, 65 million years ago. For those who haven’t figured out the footprints yet, an errant meteor has brought him down to Earth. Dinosaur fans (of which there are so, so many) will be delighted to see that the monsters he’s about to encounter are the best-rendered and most sweatily-scary yet, even as his path to survival encounters some highly-familiar terrain.
Sony has gone wide with 65, and will release it in China at the end of the month, where its grosses will be closely-watched. It’s one of the few original (i.e. non-sequel) entertainment titles in the marketplace, so a lot is riding on Mills’ ship. 65 is a high-concept film – dinosaurs, space, Adam Driver, a kid – with a tiny cast, one of whom conducts most of her performance via hologram: it’s old style, in other words. It’s won’t close the current gulf between arthouse and theme park-style entertainment, but it is well-acted, constructed and executed.
Beck and Woods take an unusual amount of screen time to show their narrative cards, starting out with Mills saying goodbye to his sick daughter Nevine (Chloe Coleman). He’s about to take a two-year job captaining a ship across space in order to fund her medical bills. Mid-flight, he wakes up to discover it has been hit by an asteroid, and a spectacular crash ensues, killing all passengers on board – or so he thinks. Stranded in a swamp surrounded by corpses, he debates suicide. Thoughts of his daughter spur him on, and he soon finds her mirror image in the child Koa (Ariana Greenblatt) who has miraculously survived. To say they are surrounded by peril understates the threat posed by the Earth of 65 million years ago.
Thankfully Mills is brave, super-ripped-fit, a crack shot and able to take repeated punishment (a stabbing, a dislocated shoulder, being consumed by a swamp) and still soldier on. He doesn’t speak the same language as Koa, but they slowly start to form a bond as they try to find a missing escape pod.
There are a lot of questions here. Why is a child on this ship? Where are these pre-historic spacemen going? How has the production design managed to be so creative given most of the film’s budget seems to have been spent on Driver and dino-effects? Left to create a world between a soundstage and a swamp, Kevin Ishioka, aided by Salvatore Torino’s lensing, provides a credible world for Mills and Koa.
The thrill of 65 is simple ‘they’re behind you’ jumps. Looming out of the prehistoric vines come our old favourites and, after Jurassic Park, we know the pecking order. Cuteness, followed by raptors, working up to a T-Rex or three, accompanied by a score which doesn’t showboat and a sweet sense of timing. These creatures really are impressive, and, even more helpfully, not accompanied by Driver making wisecracks. He takes this world seriously and so will you, the viewer, by the end.
Dino scares are almost as old as cinema itself. It’s quite comforting, post-pandemic, to see these pea-brained foes raise their beady eyes again. It seems to signify that normal business has resumed: the box office will prove whether we’re going back to the future or not.
Production companies: Bron Creative, Raimi Productions, Beck Woods Production
Worldwide distribution: Sony
Producers: Sam Raimi, Deborah Liebling, Zainab Azizi, Scott Beck, Bryan Woods
Screenplay: Scott Back, Bryan Woods
Cinematography: Salvatore Torino
Production design: Kevin Ishioka
Editing: Joris Schaeffer, Jane Tones
Music: Chris Bacon
Main cast: Adam Driver, Ariana Greenblatt, Chloe Coleman