2023, PG-13, 93 min. Directed by Scott Beck, Bryan Woods. Starring Adam Driver, Ariana Greenblatt, Chloe Coleman, Nika King.
REVIEWED By Dex Wesley Parra, Fri., March 17, 2023
Take one part space voyage, one part dinosaur caper, double the dosage of jump scares, and throw in a smidgen of reluctant found-family kinship. Half-bake it for 93 minutes and you get 65, the latest high-budget thriller from A Quiet Place writers Scott Beck and Bryan Woods.
65,000,002 years ago, on a fictional planet in a gaseous galaxy, interstellar pilot Mills (Driver), at the insistence of his partner (King), must embark on a two-year exploratory mission to earn sufficient funds to save his dying daughter (Coleman). Don’t ask who these humans are, how they existed during the tail end of the Cretaceous period, or what illness the girl suffers from. In fact, it’s best not to think too deeply about any of the plot devices woven into this high-concept blockbuster. Besides, the film only spends 10 minutes on the bare bones exposition before Mills’ spacecraft crash lands on Earth thanks to an unexpected meteor shower. The rest is prehistory.
For reasons unexplained – again, don’t ask questions – the shipwrecked shuttle carried rows of cryogenically frozen passengers. Assuming they all perished, Mills abandons hope until he discovers (surprise!) a girl named Koa (Greenblatt) who survived the fall. She doesn’t speak his language, a conveniently modern English, but they must learn to communicate if they want any chance of reaching the faraway escape pod. Oh, and did I mention the dinosaurs?
At its iron-and-nickel core, 65 functions as a heavy visual effects popcorn movie. The pterodactyls and T-rexes appear convincingly realistic, even at high speeds. The advanced space weapons, including olive-sized explosives and a rechargeable rifle capable of paralyzing velociraptors, make for memorable action sequences akin to the Predator franchise. If nothing else, this PG-13 adventure flick entertains in bursts, ideal for intermittent viewing when it inevitably arrives on a streaming service.
Plagued by months of delays from distributor Sony Pictures Releasing, 65 struggles to find its footing. At once science fiction, horror, and drama, it’s never enough of any genre. The tone toggles between curious and treacherous, which could work as a parallel to the inquisitive 9-year-old Koa and the hardened veteran Mills, but various technical aspects refuse to ever be in agreement. Take the score, a decidedly cinematic orchestra piece by composer Chris Bacon (A&E’s Bates Motel), and watch how the onscreen action rarely aligns with the tempo or even mood. The same could be said of the stunning yet not quite fitting cinematography from Salvatore Totino (Space Jam: A New Legacy, Bird Box).
Driver, for his part, knows how to captivate an audience. Even without the help of a fitted astronaut costume that clings to his sculpture, the star of Marriage Story and the Star Wars sequel trilogy plays a surrogate father with emotional ease, comforting his stand-in daughter and believably shouting in agony when she’s in peril. Greenblatt (Love and Monsters) holds her own alongside the two-time Oscar nominee.
If you go into 65 expecting Star Wars meets Jurassic Park, lower your expectations. While there’s not enough outer space to call it an intergalactic odyssey and barely enough dino havoc, 65 has just the right amount of vigor to survive its relatively short runtime. If only we could say the same for the dinosaurs.