While there’s a lot to be said about the ridiculousness of its premise I think 65 manages to work. It barely pulls it off, with the final product being sweaty and nervous about its own premise, but it pulls together just enough to be a fun sci-fi premise that worked for me.
Why not? Adam Driver fighting dinosaurs is a fairly straightforward concept, but a sad father missing his daughter that finds a surrogate to transport through a dangerous wasteland is in vogue right now and the staid actor performs it beautifully. Driver has never been anything but game for any role, crafting each into an intense character that remains memorable long after you’ve left the theatre. Now he’s stepped onto a prehistoric Earth on the eve of its destruction and he doesn’t hold back one iota of his steady and gripping presence, even if the film is silly and doesn’t ask as much as he delivers.
The title is indeed how many million years ago this takes place, revealed in the sweatiest title card of all time about thirty minutes into the movie. Mills (Adam Driver) is transporting some humans to a new world in cryosleep, interrupted by an uncharted asteroid field, and crashed onto our ancient world. He’s only there because his daughter (Chloe Coleman) needs a treatment the family cannot afford without a pay raise for longer missions, constantly watching the video messages she’s sent him with ritualistic habit. The only other survivor of the crash is Koa (Ariana Greenblatt), a girl from a different culture and who cannot communicate through the language barrier, and the two need to cross a valley littered with dangerous dinosaurs to reach the escape pod that landed on a nearby mountain.
That’s it, that’s the movie! A Quiet Place writers Scott Beck and Bryan Woods have stepped into the directors’ chairs for this one, creating a near dialogue-free film about the most basic premise – two people trying to make it from point A to point B before time runs out. We’ve seen this before and that familiar premise allows us to sit back and watch a film we know will end in a specific way without really dwelling on its freshness. Instead we can focus on the story of a father and a daughter-figure fighting tooth and nail to survive together, one that’s cleverly timed on the weekend we receive the finale of The Last of Us. Audiences may struggle with the silliness of this Twilight Zone-esque premise but they’ll connect hard with young Ariana Greenblatt, who is hilariously charming alongside the very serious Driver.
While not exactly a nail-biter it does have some intensity to its action sequences, with dinosaurs frequently attacking the duo and being obliterated by Driver’s futuristic weapons. The man takes a beating throughout but we’re never really worried about his survival. This cuts some of the tension, leaving for a predictable time, but if you buy in and have fun with it that doesn’t really matter.
The animation on the dinos is another story. Limited budgets and production on a sci-fi film can lead to some graphics issues and it affects here most. These things look rough, standing out against the gorgeous landscapes of the Krisatchie National Forest where the film was shot. They’re goofy-looking and have an awkward movement, continuing the trend of amorphous CGI dinos that are more akin to lizards than the birds we now know them to resemble. It’s hard to buy it in a modern world but luckily the rest of the film is just fun enough to gloss over some of these rougher elements.
65 isn’t going to draw a massive box office and it’s not going to be anyone’s big surprise of the year. I’m glad it could be a small one for me, with its more entertaining elements far more than satisfactory and keeping me engaged throughout. It’s a fun time at the movies, one that feels far more special in an era where I long for quick bites of something original and unique. I got that with this ninety-minute adventure and it scratched an itch I had almost forgotten I had.
65 is currently playing in theatres.