2023 | PG-13 | starring Adam Driver and Ariana Greenblatt | written & directed by Scott Back and Bryan Woods |
The lone pilot of a space exploration ship, Mills (Adam Driver), encounters a freak meteor shower and crash lands on an alien planet. After discovering another survivor in the hostile terrain, a young girl (Ariana Greenblatt) who resembles the daughter he left behind, Mills struggles to get off a planet inhabited by dinosaurs. That planet, Earth. The time, 65 million years ago.
65 is a simple, straightforward mid-budget action movie with a crackerjack premise. Jurassic Park was such a good concept that it monopolized how movies used dinosaurs for the next 30 years. 65 makes an attempt to wrestle them back, flipping the dynamic from Dinosaurs in Our Time to Humans in Prehistoric Times – and in the attempt showing why that approach doesn’t quite work. Putting dinosaurs in our times makes a monster movie. It is ripe with action set pieces in which humans can use technology to even the playing field with the monsters. Now, I can outrun a T-Rex in a Jeep or swing a crane into it. It also allows you to pull forward any dinosaur you want, even those that didn’t walk the Earth in the same eras.
Putting humans in prehistoric times results in a man vs. nature survival film. Without technology to even the odds there aren’t a lot of action set pieces you can create. In fact, I think 65 might run through them all. We get a small child running through a log, a T-rex sneaking under a waterfall (the best scene in the film), geysers going off and paradactyls pecking away. Your only way to level that playing field is to climb up a tree and Driver’s character does that. 65 crafts the premise around a crashed spaceship so we’ve got some technology to play with, but buy and large the film is predictable, bland and safe. It feels more like a sizzle reel auditioning for a bigger project than a complete movie.
65 is not cluttered and it’s not stupid. It’s scoped down to what it can competently handle within it’s budget and that works. One thing I wouldn’t change, is almost all of the third act. There is a perfectly appropriate turn the story takes at about the halfway point that moves it from a survival film to a ticking clock film. One that nicely plays on us having knowledge of the situation that the characters do not. I also wouldn’t touch the climactic battle between Mills and the T-Rex. With the Jurassic Park films to scared to kill off a dinosaur and most movies having no creative deaths for their villains whatsoever, this was refreshing (this and Violent Night are delightful surprises). There is still something appealing and satisfying about a small, even predictable movie, done well.
I’m also not entirely sure how you’d fix it though. Me, personally, I would have added an ensemble of crew for Driver to play off of. We get some banter, some human drama and the ensemble being picked off in gruesome fashion. Everyone would call it “Jurassic Park meets Alien”, but – ask yourself – is that better or worse than what we got here?I get that writer/directors Back and Woods (of the equally high concept A Quiet Place) were going for lean and mean, but the premise is good enough to expand beyond that. With a cast of two, the monster carnage is pretty limited. This is one case where they probably should have gotten more ambitious and reached out a bit further than they could grasp. This is a first draft that needs to be explored and excavated more. A bigger movie that’s a little messier would have been much more fun. Still, 65 is better than the last two Jurassic World movies.