Director: Scott Beck, Bryan Woods
Cast: Adam Driver, Ariana Greenblatt, Chloe Coleman, Nika King
Runtime: 1 hr 33 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Violence & Disturbing Scenes)
Released By: Sony Pictures
Opening Day: 9 March 2023
Synopsis: After a catastrophic crash on an unknown planet, pilot Mills (Adam Driver) quickly discovers he’s actually stranded on Earth…65 million years ago. Now, with only one chance at rescue, Mills and the only other survivor, Koa (Ariana Greenblatt), must make their way across an unknown terrain riddled with dangerous prehistoric creatures in an epic fight to survive.
The revival of the ‘Jurassic Park’ franchise must have gotten the duo of Scott Beck and Bryan Woods thinking: “How do we replicate its success with a similar dinosaur-human formula?” Prima facie, their answer – in the form of an ancient extra-terrestrial civilisation who happened to crash land on the planet Earth 65 million years ago – isn’t in itself a bad idea. Unfortunately, ‘65’ is at best a middling high-concept movie, and is unlikely to translate into any sort of franchise opportunities which the directing-screenwriting pair may have hoped for.
Perhaps the very first misstep is to construct ‘65’ as a realistic survival thriller, by pitting Adam Driver’s Commander Mills and Ariana Greenblatt’s Koa against the terrain, its flora and its fauna. A brief prologue establishes how Mills had reluctantly agreed to pilot a two-year mission in order to afford the life-saving medical procedure which his young daughter Nevine (Chloe Coleman) needed, before a longer introduction showing how the vessel he was piloting encounters a nasty asteroid storm which causes it to crash-land on the thankfully inhabitable planet called Earth.
Besides Mills, the only other person on board the ship to survive the crash is Koa, which for obvious reasons, is set up as close to Nevine’s age. Unlike Mills, Koa’s native language isn’t English, which allows Beck-Woods to apply some of that ‘A Quiet Place’ treatment to the interaction between them. The plot is as simple as it gets – before the same asteroid storm hits Earth and wipes out every living creature on it, Mills and Koa must make it to the escape shuttle 15 miles across from where they crash-landed, in order to head back into space to meet their rescue vessel.
And over the next one and a half hours, Mills and Koa will encounter a menagerie of prehistoric creatures while trekking across the terrain filled with quicksand and steam-filled geysers. To their credit, Beck-Woods do offer a few exciting action sequences, including one in the forest where Mills has to fight against a pack of lizard-like dinosaurs, another in a series of caves where Mills and Koa encounter the Tyrannosaurus Rex for the first time, and the finale where they have to battle not one but three T-Rexes while trying to get into the escape pod. Still, neither are Spielberg, and none of the sequences are memorable in and of themselves.
Nor for that matter is the character work, which was probably the reason why Driver decided to sign on in the first place. Despite setting aside quiet moments for Mills and Koa for them to bond, there is little poignancy to their relationship, not even when Koa confirms what we had expected about Nevine’s fate from the get-go. Driver is as formidable an actor as he is an action hero here, but is underserved by the writing; ditto for Greenblatt, who at least shares good chemistry with Driver as their characters attempt to communicate and connect with each other.
Though ‘65’ is nowhere near awful, it hardly distinguishes itself to justify its existence or more its longevity as a franchise. Like we said, there is nothing particularly compelling about their survival journey across our planet 65 million years ago when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, be it in terms of story, character or even special effects. For that reason, ‘65’ comes off more underwhelming than anything, a high-concept movie that ultimately fails to deliver adequately on its ambition and promise.
(An underwhelming start to what could have been a new dinosaur movie franchise, '65' lacks story, character and ultimately bite)
Review by Gabriel Chong