A Decent But Formulaic Sci-Fi Action Thriller That Delivers A Third Act Worth Waiting For
Mar 10, 2023
A satisfying stew of genre tropes and classic sci-fi and monster movie influences, “65” is a popcorn movie that isn’t quite the intense thrill ride it gives the impression it wants to be, although it definitely has its moments.
READ MORE: ‘65’ Trailer: Adam Driver Transforms Into An Action Hero Fighting Dinosaurs In Sci-Fi Thriller From Sam Raimi
Adam Driver plays Mills, a pilot who agrees to take a two-year space mission so that it will give him the money he needs to help pay for his sick daughter’s medical treatment. En route to its destination, the ship gets catastrophically damaged and crash lands on an uncharted planet which turns out to be Earth 65 million years ago. With the craft in pieces scattered far and wide and everyone else who was on board seemingly dead, Mills begins exploring and quickly stumbles across another survivor, a little girl called Koa, played by Ariana Greenblatt.
He rescues her, and although they don’t speak the same language, he explains that there is only one way home, a small craft that has survived the impact but is stuck high up on a mountain. That kicks off a dangerous and unpredictable journey for the pair across unknown terrain that is home to dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures as they try to get to the ship where Mills has told Koa her family will be. Add in the fact that the meteorite that will cause mass extinction is headed right for Earth, and the countdown is on.
The marketing campaign for “65” has made a lot of the fact that the film is produced, written, and directed by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, the guys who co-wrote Paramount’s cracking franchise Kickstarter, “A Quiet Place.” It’s not surprising that’s the case as this is very much a movie cut from a similar cloth as it involves people trying not to alert monsters to their presence while on a race for survival from A to B. The science fiction action thriller is co-produced by Sam Raimi, and you can feel his fingerprints and influence threaded throughout this. The combination of great minds behind horror heritage and monster mayhem helps give “65” the jump scare-laced edge that keeps the breaths held, eyes wide, and seats gripped just enough.
When it comes to influences, “65” brings elements of “Jurassic Park” and “Enemy Mine” via “Aliens” and “Predator” through to original “Star Wars” and sci-fi B-movies from the 50s to the 80s. While DNA connects them all, this is at the right end of the familiarity scale and does its own thing with all the parts. “65” is a genuinely entertaining ride but lacks sustained tension to the degree of “A Quiet Place” and Raimi’s best work. When it kicks up a notch here, it really delivers, but the stakes don’t feel high enough in between, which is odd when the whole movie only lasts 93 minutes, and the pace is pretty swift. That said, “65” could never be considered boring, and it is, at the very least, engaging throughout.
Both Driver and Greenblatt do a solid job with their performances, but the star of the show is the special effects work. What’s on display is impressive in both scale and execution. The creature design and realization are so dramatic and detailed that they give the movie the wow factor it needs. From giant bugs to cave-dwelling dinos and Velociraptors all the way up to the huge ones, each comes to play, often with no mercy. On more than one occasion, it feels like “65” delivers the prehistoric punch that the most recent two “Jurassic World” movies aspired to. There is also a genius yet brutal moment that flips from heartwarming to horrifying in seconds, putting the audience on the back foot. It’s as cruel as it is cool. Driver’s Mills also has some tech that adds a creative technological flair to the movie’s narrative and the action set pieces.
While the first two-thirds of the film gets the job done, it’s the third act where “65” goes all out, and it sticks the landing perfectly. There’s a confidence that builds throughout that film and explodes in an exhilarating human vs. dino conclusion. The frenzied finale is where “65” delivers the adrenaline rush teased throughout what came before, and the destination is worth the journey. If it hadn’t gone so hard with the finale, the whole thing would have felt like a wasted opportunity.
“65” looks great and is a good time that leans into its PG-13 rating. Given how far that envelope gets pushed at times, it wouldn’t have needed to go much further to crank things up one or two more notches and go for an R. Maybe that edit exists somewhere, but even if it does, it might never see the light of day. “65” is a decent sci-fi monster movie, but cut down, it would have made a kick-ass theme park ride. [B-]
“65” opens March 10 via Sony Pictures Entertainment.
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