Lifeless Sci-fi Action Horror 65 (2023) Fails to Capitalize on Thrilling Premise
First Non-Festival Release: March 2, 2023 (Theatrical Release)
Director: Scott Beck, Bryan Woods
Writer: Scott Beck, Bryan Woods
Runtime: 93 Minutes
Starring: Adam Driver, Ariana Greenblatt, Chloe Coleman
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
The idea of being stranded somewhere without any hope of rescue can be a terrifying thought. When an entire planet becomes your prison, that can only amplify those feelings of helplessness. What if this were true for someone from a far advanced civilization who crash landed on Earth 65,000,000 years in the past?
This is the fate that has befallen Mills (Adam Driver), an astronaut that has crash landed on Earth before humanity existed, badly damaging his ship and killing all his cryogenically frozen passengers in the process. He about gives up before discovering that one, however, manages to survive. Koa (Ariana Greenblatt) reminds Mills of his recently deceased daughter Nevine (Chloe Coleman), which reanimates his will to live. Together, they must traverse through the hostile environment, dodging dangerous animals and natural obstacles, to reach an intact escape pod on the other half of the ship.
Meandering storytelling and tonal inconsistencies make 65 a clunky sci-fi exploration to support.
From the get-go, 65 employs every sci-fi horror trick in the book to keep the audience engaged while failing to present anything new. Conceptually speaking, 65 has many avenues to explore its idea of two people crash landing on Earth millions of years ago. Its chosen path is more conventional than anything. Owing much to films set on far away planets with stranded crews, 65 presents the straightforward narrative of Mills and Koa traversing across dinosaur inhabited land to reach the safety of an escape pod that managed to survive the crash landing. Without any substantial subplot, the film relies too heavily on the dino action to justify the repetitive nature of its story.
The lack of development between Mills and Koa makes the remainder of the film a slog to endure, as the duo advance from checkpoint to checkpoint dodging various dinosaurs. Aside from very shallow aspects, the audience effectively knows nothing about each of its protagonists. Koa hails from a different region of Mill’s home planet making communication nearly impossible and the only thing he knows for sure is that her parents are dead. Mills takes on a paternal role to Koa after the crash since his overall volatility has increased following the death of his daughter. Aside from general survival skills and a determination to keep her alive, there isn’t much to him either. Adam Driver and Ariana Greenblatt try to do overtime work to make the relationship between them work, but with so little to go off of they both look stilted when trying.
This dynamic is challenging for a movie that depends on its two main human characters to keep the drama alive. So, 65 ensures that Koa finds herself in harm’s way as often as possible to keep Mills and the audience on their toes. It seems like the screenwriters feel the only way to keep the tension is to incapacitate Koa. Eventually, she begins to prove herself in some sporadic development of skills and hardiness, but its suddenness still fails to deviate from the film’s formula of using danger against her as the only method of raising the stakes.
What 65 does get right is its capture of prehistoric Earth and its central antagonists. The dinosaurs are beautifully rendered for largely computer-generated creatures. They look like they live in the same planet that Driver and Greenblatt do, making their advances seem more real than many creature features do. Earth is given a beautiful rendering, stripped down to the natural elements pre-man. Its natural beauty is captured seamlessly by the camera, giving many scenes a natural yet foreign look.
Inoffensive yet dull, 65 is a by-the-numbers sci-fi adventure with splashes of dinosaur horror action to keep audiences mildly entertained. Sufficient as late-night popcorn fodder, it falls apart when any degree of analysis is thrust upon it. Dull storytelling, middling performances, and tonal inconsistencies make it a tough sell to anyone seeking something truly exciting. With tempered expectations, however, it is rather easy to appreciate the strong special effects work and dynamic camerawork of this midbudget thrill ride. There are worse ways to spend 90 minutes, so if the ‘Adam Driver fights off dinosaurs’ pitch works for you then by all means get ready for some fun.
Overall Score? 5/10