Capsule Review: 65 (2023)

It’s Adam Driver vs the dinosaurs. This short and concise logline is more than enough to convince me it will be a cinematic thrill ride in 65. The movie even has Scott Beck and Bryan Woods at the helm and if their names aren’t familiar to you, they were the ones who wrote the white-knuckle sci-fi horror of A Quiet Place.

The premise is straightforward enough: Scott Beck and Bryan Woods imagined a what-if scenario on Earth 65 million years ago. That scenario in question is an interstellar pilot named Mills (Adam Driver) and his only surviving passenger, Koa (Ariana Greenblatt) find themselves on the planet with no idea what they will expect next. Apparently, their spaceship collides with an asteroid that causes the inevitable crash-landing in the first place, killing most of the passengers on board. With no outside help whatsoever, Mills and Koa have to rely on their own survival instincts to overcome the dangerous encounters with the vicious dinosaurs. Their only hope to get out of the planet alive is to locate the escape shuttle somewhere in the mountain, which is torn apart from the spaceship during the crash earlier. And they have to do it fast anyway, especially after Mills finds out a large asteroid is hurtling toward Earth.

In what could have been a tense race-against-time survival thriller, given the fact it runs only around 90 minutes or so, Beck and Woods can’t seem to get this right on track. It’s not they didn’t try at all with some scenes, notably the climactic finale revolving around a pair of T-Rex is reasonably thrilling and suspenseful. But 65 ultimately suffers the cardinal sin of subduing the action sequences most of the time when the writer-director duo is supposed to be pushing them further. What annoys me the most is the duo’s tendency of cutting the action short (Mills and Koa’s earlier encounter with the dinosaurs in the jungle quickly come to mind), despite being granted a big budget at their disposal.

Adam Driver and Ariana Greenblatt in "65" (2023)

The CGI dinosaurs are adequate and most probably won’t give you the wow factor since Steven Spielberg already sets the bar high thirty years earlier in Jurassic Park. With the action and the thrills pretty much a hit-or-miss affair, this leaves the performances between Adam Driver and Ariana Greenblatt. Save it for the opening scene featuring Mills’ backstory of him spending the last moments with his wife, Alya (Nika King) and his sick daughter Nevine (Chloe Coleman) before embarking on a two-year mission to transport the passengers, the movie focuses predominantly on Mills and Koa (unless you want to count Nevine, who appears in a hologram device on and off).

The good news is, Driver and Greenblatt share decent chemistry, even though the latter plays a character who barely speaks English other than a foreign language that Driver’s Mills has a tough time understanding her. Individually speaking, Driver manages to balance his act between being a tough, no-nonsense pilot and a homesick father who misses his daughter dearly. It’s not every day we get to see him in a mainstream blockbuster role (well, other than his Kylo Ren character in the Star Wars sequel trilogy, of course) and here, he does what he can to make his role worthwhile, even though the direction and the story feel lacklustre.

Overall, a missed opportunity with only a few redeeming qualities that could have been better.