An alien who looks and sounds like a contemporary human crash-lands on Earth 65 million years in the past in 65, which opens in Prague cinemas from Thursday. Light on storytelling but high on atmosphere, this one is a miss despite some evocative production design and an engaging lead performance by star Adam Driver.
In 65, Driver plays a space trucker named Mills from the planet Somaris who takes a two-year assignment in order to pay for his sick daughter’s treatment. This is conveyed in a three-minute tacked-on opening prologue on a very Earth-like beach where he teaches daughter Nevine (Chloe Coleman) how to whistle and says goodbye to a wife (Nika King) forgotten for the rest of the movie.
Bad news on the return trip: not five minutes into 65, Mills’ ship runs into an asteroid belt and crash lands into Earth. All of his cargo-passengers have been killed on impact, save one: a young girl named Koa (Ariana Greenblatt), who unfortunately doesn’t speak Mills’ brand of North American English.
The ship broke in half, and there’s an escape pod 12 kilometers away on top of a mountain. Only problem: as the title indicates, this is Earth 65 million years ago, and filled with deadly dinosaurs. And the asteroid that made the dinosaurs extinct is just hours away from adding Mills and Koa to its list of victims.
And that’s 65. Mills and Koa need to get from point A to point B within a couple days, fending off a few dinosaurs and blasting off before the extinction event. Thankfully, Mills has a handy laser rifle that can take down even the largest of predators, though spiders, insects, quicksand, and cave-ins also pose a regular threat.
Despite what audiences will expect from this kind of thing, 65 is pretty light on the dinosaur action: there’s only about 10-15 minutes worth of creature effects, mostly involving some pesky raptor-like creatures that resemble big Komodo dragons, and a big T-Rex finale. Other dinosaurs, including some small Deinonychus-like predators and Dsungaripterus-like pterosaurs, are only briefly glimpsed.
That’s a shame, because while the dinosaur effects in 65 aren’t up to the level of something like the Jurassic World films, they’re a lot better than what you get in the average SyFy original, a better comparison for 65’s sparse storyline. Unfortunately, the movie is just as light on story development or character work as it is on the action; you know exactly where it’s going ten minutes in, with no surprises.
In most stories of this type, our gruff and laconic hero is initially resistant to the childlike innocence of his companion, but ultimately forms a deep and loving bond; think Joel in The Last of Us, or Sam Neill’s Alan Grant in the first Jurassic Park.
In 65, meanwhile, Driver’s character is established in the very first scene as a kind and loving father… who instinctively latches onto his lone surviving passenger as a surrogate for his own daughter and a reason to carry on. Not only do we learn precious little about his character, but there’s zero arc to his personal journey.
65’s light storytelling could be forgiven if it were packed with dinosaur action, and its weak action could be forgiven if this were a more nuanced and eventful tale of survival where we learn to care for these characters and invest in their journey. Unfortunately, there’s just not much of anything to draw grab our interest here.
Slickly-made by filmmakers Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, who co-wrote A Quiet Place and directed the 2019 slasher Haunt, 65 is richly atmospheric and well-designed but could have used some more work on the story. In terms of big screen dinosaur action, it’s a mild but satisfactory outing that will at least whet your appetite for something more substantial.