65 is an old-fashioned science-fiction B-movie with an A-list star, and budget to match. But while Adam Driver does his best with the material, it all feels a little stale and predictable, while some sentimental plotting in the home strait threatens to derail the whole endeavour.
The central conceit of 65 is solid. Prior to the advent of mankind, other civilisations were exploring the heavens. Including the inhabitants of a planet called Somaris.
One such inhabitant – a pilot called Mills – flies a ship on a long-range exploration mission. We don’t know what’s being explored, or why, as that doesn’t matter. What does matter however, is that his spacecraft flies into an undetected asteroid belt (while Mills is asleep no less), and crash-lands on an uncharted planet, killing everyone onboard. Aside from Mills himself.
He checks out the planet’s surface, spies a giant footprint, hears a huge roar, and then – 15 minutes in – we get the big reveal when these words appear onscreen: “65… million years ago, a visitor crash-landed on earth.”
Who is Adam Driver’s Mills?
Adam Driver plays pilot Mills, with stoicism, hard-nosed determination, and in the early scenes at least, little emotion. That’s because Mills is a man on a mission.
In a brief prologue, we learn that the longest Mills has been away from home previously is six weeks. But he’s undertaking this two-year job for triple pay that will help treat – and hopefully cure – his sick daughter.
So the immediately establishes Mills as entirely selfless, embarking on a mission where the stakes couldn’t be higher for the people he loves. Which is a good start for an adventure. But when your hero is this serious, you need someone for him to bounce off, and 65 has fun on that front.
It takes two…
As having pulled shrapnel from his side, suited up, grabbed a weapon, and located a possible way off Earth, Mills runs into another (unexpected) survivor from the crash in the shape of a little girl called Koa.
As played by Ariana Greenblatt, she’s adorable, brave, and resourceful. While she’s also in touch with her emotions in a way that Mills isn’t. Koa also speaks a different language, and with the ship’s translator broken, the film finds humor in their efforts to communicate with each other.
Though story-wise, it all feels a bit too convenient that the only other person on the planet is the same age and gender as our hero’s daughter, enabling him to work through his guilt and regret while battling dinosaurs.
Adam Driver’s Jurassic Lark
And battle dinosaurs they do, though it takes what feels like a Jurassic age to get there. But about 40 minutes in the film starts small, with pint-sized creatures attacking in some fun action sequences.
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They get bigger as the film progresses, with writer-directors Scott Beck and Bryan Woods – who previously scripted the similarly-themed A Quiet Place – doing a good job of putting ever-more deadly obstacles in the way of our dynamic duo.
There’s a lovely bit of business with a dislocated shoulder, and some nicely escalating action on a beach. Though on occasion the computer-generated effects are a bit ropey. Meanwhile, the claustrophobic scene in a cave where all seems lost for our heroes lasts a bit too long, trapping the characters inside when by that point in the movie, the premise pretty much demands they be outdoors doing battle with beasts.
Falling at the last hurdle
There’s a fun “ticking clock” in place, which we won’t spoil here (though you can probably guess the nature of the catastrophe heading their way). While having teased the T-Rex earlier in the movie, the daddy of all dinosaurs makes a dramatic appearance late in proceedings.
But while 65 builds to an action-packed finale, that climax features a story beat that is so sentimental – and so silly – that it threatens to ruin what’s gone before.
Which is frustrating as the film doesn’t need such a heavy-handed moment to tug on audience heartstrings, and while the scene is clearly there to trigger tears, it’s much more likely to elicit groans.
The Verdict: Is 65 good?
65 is the opposite of the kind of hard sci-fi that has filled multiplexes the last few years; the antithesis of serious fare like Interstellar, Arrival and Dune. Instead, this is dumb fun that looks and feels like a very expensive SyFy movie, and has more in common with those Land and People That Time Forgot movies that starred Doug McClure back in the day.
The Star Wars principle of making what looks like the future into the past is always fun. 65 even features that classic and oft-used B-movie staple – quicksand.
Adam Driver is always watchable whatever the movie, and his interactions with Ariana Greenblatt are adorable, so-much-so that you’re really rooting for the pair of them come the climax. It’s just a shame that said finale is fumbled, with the film – much like Mills himself – ultimately failing to stick the landing.
65 Score: 2/5
65 has a fantastic set-up, but in spite of Adam Driver’s spirited efforts, the pay-off doesn’t deliver.