It was the week leading to the Oscars and all the movies in the top 5 box office would never have been nominated. Third on the list is 65, which beat pundits’ expectations and defied dismal reviews with a $12 million domestic gross. I LOVE Adam Driver and dinosaur movies, so I don’t mind buying tickets to see this on the big screen.
The premise is simple – in a parallel universe set 65 million years ago, a pilot from an unknown planet crash lands on earth where prehistoric dinosaurs were still alive and kicking. So there’s no time travel involved here, though the planet where Driver’s character Mills came from is far more advanced than our current world today with its hi-tech spaceship and weaponry. Some rogue asteroids somehow hit Mills’ ship, causing it to crashland on earth. For a brief while, Mills thinks he’s the only survivor but soon he finds a little girl who’s still alive in her pod.
Now, Driver is the kind of actor who can carry a movie on his own buff shoulders, so I could easily watch just him + those prehistoric creatures for the entire 90-minute movie. But Mills did find the other survivor from his ship, young girl Koa (Ariana Greenblatt) who happens to be about the same age as the daughter (Chloe Coleman) he leaves behind to do this mission. As if it’s not already tricky enough trying to navigate uncharted territory, Mills and Koa have communication problems as they don’t speak each other’s language so they have to rely on a lot of body language to survive. They just have to get to the other part of the ship in order to fly back home, but of course, they have to fight a bunch of creatures on the way.
Written and directed by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods who garnered critical acclaim for writing A Quiet Place Part I and II, there’s that familiar theme of people versus scary creatures. I have to say that both A Quiet Place films are far more suspenseful and the concept of a family who must work together against unprecedented threats is far more compelling. I think the language barrier issue adds complexity to the protagonists’ relationship, something the screenwriters did in A Quiet Place as well with the one deaf character.
People who go into this expecting to see a ton of dinosaur action will get to see quite a few of them, though they seem to save most of the spectacles until the big finale. The middle part drags quite a bit and the dynamic between Mills and Koa is just not as interesting as it might’ve looked on paper. The father-daughter dynamic seems to be popular these days, especially with the current popularity of The Last Of Us series that’s based on a video game. Unfortunately here there’s little rapport between Mills and Koa and I find her irritating at times. I even thought that Chloe Coleman is a far more intriguing young actress so if their roles were flipped, perhaps I’d be more invested in their journey.
On a technical level, the cinematography by Salvatore Totino looks decent but like so many sci-fi movies out there, the overuse of desaturation filter makes everything look extra dreary. The dinosaur design itself is nothing to write home about, they’re basically the same types we’ve seen better in the Jurassic Park franchise. Now, I don’t have issues with that, but I wish there were more suspense and actual thrills involving a t-rex or two. For an extinction-level event, there’s very little tension or sense of wonder to be found. I can’t even pinpoint any memorable action sequence that I haven’t seen before in similar human vs. creature movies. The hi-tech gadgetry is used occasionally but not in an inventive way like say, how the protagonist in PREY used her hammer against the predator enemy.
Overall, 65 has lots of potential especially when they’ve got a bona fide lead in Adam Driver as the lead, but the lackluster direction and script made this one pretty underwhelming. The plethora of plot holes and head-scratching scenes don’t help either. SPOILER ALERT: Just how did Koa figure out Mills had been sucked into quicksand when she wasn’t around when that happened?? I read on IMDb that this is the first in Driver’s film career where he utilizes his weapons training from his old career as a Marine, if only the movie had been worthy of his performance. I’m actually being generous with my rating here as at least it’s only an hour and a half long and Driver managed to make the cinema trip worthwhile thanks to his commanding screen presence.
Have you seen ’65’? I’d love to hear your thoughts of it!
2 thoughts on “’65’ (2023) Review – an underwhelming sci-fi but still watchable thanks to Adam Driver’s commanding presence”
I had no idea that this film opened this past weekend. The studio decided to not promote it that much after the Super Bowl spot. I totally forgot about it. Lol! It’s bummer that the film turned out to be a dud, maybe I’ll watch it when it’s on Netflix or Prime.
I didn’t forget because it’s got Adam Driver in it, and he’s still the reason to see it. It’s still well worth a watch on streaming, Ted!