65 Adam Driver


65 billion years ago, a spaceship piloted by Mills (Adam Driver) crash-lands on Earth after crossing paths with an unexpected group of asteroids.  His cargo, twelve people in cryosleep, are all killed except one, a young girl named Koa (Ariana Greenblatt).  Mills needs to get both of them to the remaining escape pod before the asteroids hit.  Their journey is complicated by two problems.  First, the two speak different languages.  Mills’ home planet has managed to develop interplanetary space travel but not a universal translator.  Second, the environment is filled with Cretaceous period dinosaurs who want to eat them.  Over the next twenty-four hours, Mills and the only other remaining survivor Koa do their best to navigate all manner of dangerous beasties, big and small, in their desperate journey to their only means of escape before an extinction-level event happens.

65 is a solid, well-made piece of entertainment.  The acting is respectable, with Driver heading up the cast of four.  He’s been in a few action movies before (ahem, Star Wars episodes 7-9), and he handles the lead actor responsibilities capably enough.  He and Greenblatt have a good rapport, and their accidental father-daughter relationship is affecting.  That both of them are able to sell this material with almost no backstory to their characters is a feat to behold.

Writer-directors Scott Beck and Bryan Woods (who wrote the screenplay for A Quiet Place) competently direct the action and convincingly establish an Earth when dinosaurs roamed freely.  The movie features technology that would feel right at home with any number of science-fiction movies made over the past ten years.  I’m not sure why they, or Driver for that matter, decided to make this particular movie.  Perhaps they had something to prove, or are angling for something bigger on the horizon.  If there is to be another Jurassic trilogy, I would put Beck and Woods on it.  They know their dinosaurs and how to make them scary as hell.  (65 plays like an abridged version of Jurassic Park.)

65 is a good B-movie that delivers all of the expected tension and scares in an efficient ninety-three minutes.  The problem is that the movie feels like it could have been much more than it turned out to be.  As I mentioned above, the movie provides minimal backstory for Mills and none for Koa.  He took the mission for the money necessary to treat his sick daughter, while she was traveling with her family.  Neither of which really matters when the clock is ticking and the dinosaurs are hungry.  The fact that Mills’ race has developed space travel so many years before the dawn of man feels like it would be explored in some way, but no.  I viewed 65 as a middle episode in a series or anthology.  I was able to follow along, but I kept wondering what happened in the previous episodes.  I honestly didn’t know why I should care about our beleaguered hero and his child ward, but I did.  That’s a victory for the actors and the craftsmanship behind the camera.  I enjoyed 65, but I wanted more.  Mildly Recommended.


I enjoyed 65 for what it is, but the movie vexes me.  Is 65 a B-movie or isn’t it?  It is a movie of modest ambition, which is what B-movies generally are.  It delivers a sufficient number of scares while the hero and his ward of circumstance desperately try to reach the remaining functional escape pod without getting chomped by any of the large assortment of dinosaurs in their environment.  However, over the course of 65’s strictly purposeful 93 minutes, I noted that all facets of the movie were better than I was expecting.  The visual effects uniformly looked great. Driver and Greenblatt’s acting was moving, despite the lack of range the script affords them.  The CGI dinosaurs, while not at Jurassic Park level, were convincing enough.  All of the technical aspects of the movie (editing, production design, etc.) were solid.  I had a fun time watching 65, but when it was over, I felt like something was missing.

I mentioned the movie’s relatively short run time above.  Given the scope of this movie, I would have expected it to run for at least two hours.  Jurassic Park and The Lost World both were a touch over two hours, which would have been appropriate for 65Jurassic World III was only ninety-two minutes, but that movie had two sequels of mythology to piggy-back off of.  65 is basically what Jurassic Park would have been if all of the expository dialog, establishing scenes and character interplay were cut and the movie jumped directly to the part where Dr. Grant and the two kids were being chased by dinosaurs.

Even with almost no frivolity, 65 is still a good movie.  It does have a couple of lighter scenes that I remember.  One is when Mills tells Koa not to eat poisonous berries.  The other is when Mills tries to comfort Koa by whistling with his hands.  There could have been more, but I respect the movie’s single-minded focus on the task at hand.  Earth 65 billion years ago was not a safe place for people, even when you had a laser rifle.  There are literally dinosaurs every which way you turn and they all want to eat you.  There’s no time for laughs because you need to be ready to run again in minutes.

65’s explanation for why Mills takes the mission made practical sense.  He needed the money to treat his terminally ill daughter.  The reason why his ship crash-lands on Earth is lacking, though.  Given how powerful the hand-held tech is that Mills uses on Earth, I don’t understand how the ship’s computer couldn’t have detected the asteroids tumbling right in their path.  I guess navigational systems are problematic even in the future.  However, since the story requires Mills to wind up on Earth, I’m OK with giving the movie a pass on how it gets him there.

What frustrated me is how little I learned beyond the bare minimum about anyone and anything in the movie.  There was none of the expected backstory about the characters, the world they come from or the place they were going to.  Koa speaks a different language than Mills, and he remarks that she’s from a different group of people on his planet.  I guess Star Wars has spoiled me in that I figure any space traveler would speak more than one language.  Even still, why doesn’t Mills have a universal translator?  The movie takes the time to establish that Mills came from a different plant.  Why bother to name the planet (Somaris) if you aren’t going to do anything with it besides show us a beach?  These questions nagged at me until the action started, which was a few minutes into the movie.

I hate to describe scenes that establish characters and their environment as perfunctory, because it’s a critical part of a movie’s narrative structure.  Think of the time Jurassic Park spent introducing us to Dr. Sadler, Dr. Grant, Dr. Malcolm, John Hammond, etc. before the T-Rex makes its first  appearance.  An hour and several minutes go by before our central characters are in lethal peril.  In 65, this happens probably at the ten minute mark.  Would Jurassic Park have been the same movie without the preceding hour spent on expository dialog, table-setting and world-building?  Obviously not.  Learning about the characters we meet and the world they find themselves in are central reasons why that movie is so much fun.  The time spent up front goes a long way to making us care whether the characters survive or not.

65, however, doesn’t give us any of that.  Instead, it asks us to empathize with two characters we barely know.  That I found myself doing exactly that was due to the impassioned acting from Driver and Greenblatt.  Selling a character with no backstory or motivation is not an easy task, but the two are up to the challenge.  If those performances didn’t work, the movie would have lost me ten minutes in.  The work by Nika King and Chloe Coleman, who portray Mills’ wife and daughter, is also good, but they are only on the screen for a few minutes at most.

Since I usually don’t research a movie before writing a review, I can only guess as to why 65 feels truncated.  Perhaps the producers or the filmmakers took an ax to the script in order to keep the budget to its reported $45m.  I’m not a director or a producer, but I would argue that in a CGI-driven movie like this one, the scenes of people talking are usually the cheapest ones to shoot.  65 could easily have been fifteen minutes longer and I wouldn’t have minded.  Watching this movie is like watching the third episode of a series without watching the first two.  I feel like I missed some important facts or details that would explain what I’m seeing.

If the decision to be lean-and-mean was intentional, that approach can work if the movie fills in the backstory along the way, but 65 never takes the time to do so.  We learn that Koa misses her family and Mills’ daughter died during his trip, but nothing else.  I expect a movie rooted in science-fiction to do more than the basics.  Movies with people being chased by predators like 47 Meter Down, The Shallows and Crawl can get away with a minimalist approach because they are based on modern-day Earth.  65, because of the world it establishes, just feels incomplete.

Of course, whether 65 turned out the way it did was due to artistic or financial decisions is largely irrelevant.  The movie that was released is the only version we have to watch.  It’s a well made meat-and-potatoes movie that left me wanting more.  Instead of being too much, it’s too little.  It’s too short and I wish the filmmakers had decided to be a bit more indulgent with the story they were telling.  Since the Jurassic movies were obvious inspirations for 65, I would note that all of them are over two hours except one, and that one (JP3) is the most forgettable entry in the franchise.

I want to know why Adam Driver decided to be in this movie.  He’s already established himself as an action movie actor with the Star Wars movies.  He didn’t need to do this movie to prove that he can carry an action movie.  Is he gunning for something big?  Does he want to inherit the mantle of another classic movie hero like Indiana Jones, perhaps?  Will he get sucked into the Marvel MCU as well?  There are vacancies for the reboot of the X-Men.  

I would pose the same can be said of the filmmakers: what drew them to make this particular movie?  65 feels like an audition reel the participants put together for a much bigger project.  Writer-directors Scott Beck and Bryan Woods wrote the script for A Quiet Place, and 65 shows that they can make a solid horror/action movie.  Studios rarely give first-time directors $45m to prove themselves, though.

Lastly, I’m curious as to why the movie takes place 65 million years before man appeared on Earth?  I found it hilarious that the ship crash-lands just days before an extinction-level event will destroy all of the monsters, if you will.  The movie should have given Mills a second to acknowledge his incredibly bad luck.  Perhaps in the sequel he’ll wind up on Earth again and will need to outrun a glacier.  Put my money on Driver if that happens.

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