Directors: Scott Beck, Bryan Woods
Cast : Adam Driver, Ariana Greenblatt, Chloe Coleman, Nika King
Run Time : 93 min
Opens : 9 March 2023
Rating : PG13
In Batman and Robin, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mr Freeze proclaimed, “What killed the dinosaurs? The Ice Age!” This is, of course, wrong.
Adam Driver killed the dinosaurs.
It is 65 million years ago. Driver plays Mills, a pilot hailing from a distant, advanced human-like alien civilisation. His ship, carrying passengers in cryostasis, is struck by asteroids and crashes onto planet earth, currently populated by dinosaurs. Mills finds one survivor, a young girl named Koa (Ariana Greenblatt), who doesn’t speak his language. Mills and Koa attempt to make their way to the escape shuttle atop a mountain, while fending off ferocious creatures of various kinds, as disaster looms.
65 is a mid-budget sci-fi B-movie. Not a lot of those get made, and even fewer get released into theatres. This reviewer is always happy to see one exist. This reviewer also likes dinosaurs, and strongly believes more movies should contain dinosaurs. There are a few exciting set-pieces, and directors Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, best known for writing A Quiet Place, are going for a sense of groundedness despite the sci-fi premise, emphasising physical locations and sets over a green screen-heavy approach. Location filming in the forests of Oregon and Louisiana, with additional material filmed in Ireland, does give the movie a sense of atmosphere.
65 is 93 minutes long but feels much longer than that. There’s just not enough here to fill the runtime. It’s a very spare story and the movie is trying to make us feel invested in its two main characters, with both actors doing their best with the material, but it’s repetitive and lacks urgency despite there being a ticking clock. Whenever a dinosaur or other prehistoric creature shows up in 65, it’s not that they look particularly bad, but they’re just never really convincing. It’s a cliché at this point to complain about how practical effects would have improved things, but that is something that can be felt very strongly in 65. The overall tone is a serious one and the movie’s reluctance to really go for it when there is the potential for something truly fun often hurts it.
Also, the trailer seemed to indicate that the characters were from the far future and had gotten stranded on earth via time travel shenanigans, but instead, the characters are aliens who just happen to be very human-like and have a lot of futuristic-looking gear. It’s not a new thing in sci-fi to depict advanced ancient alien civilisations, but one that seems so much like a futuristic human society is more than a little distracting.
Driver is a big part of why the movie works. He’s taking it seriously, but also brings a degree of charm to the proceedings. He is convincing as a competent survivor, and while we’ve seen the “hero must protect child” dynamic a lot lately (the hero usually being played by Pedro Pascal), the interplay between Driver and Ariana Greenblatt is moderately affecting.
Summary: 65 has Adam Driver in great leading man form, and it is a B-movie with dinosaurs at a time when those are practically non-existent, especially on the big screen. Unfortunately, the story is spare and even at a relatively short 93 minutes, there’s not quite enough to fill the time. The overall serious and reserved tone prevents it from being the movie one imagines upon hearing the phrase “Adam Driver shooting dinosaurs”. The visual effects generally look good, but the dinosaurs still stop some distance short of being truly convincing. It would be great to see more movies in the vein of 65 get made, but this just doesn’t quite deliver all the B-movie thrills it promises.
RATING: 3 out of 5 Stars