Adam Driver's dinosaur movie 65 is a jurassic dud
Back in 2018, Scott Beck and Bryan Woods teamed up with John Krasinski to deliver one of this best modern horrors in A Quiet Place. It was a high-concept, deceptively simple horror that also managed to be utterly terrifying.
Beck and Woods were clearly hoping to strike genre gold again with 65, a high-concept thriller that sees the duo directing as well as writing. The movie was shrouded in secrecy until that first trailer made the title clear: it's 65 million years ago and a stranded pilot finds himself facing down dinosaurs.
It might not be time-travel as many speculated – lead star Adam Driver has made that clear – but it's still an instantly captivating concept. Sci-fi with dinosaurs? We were already buying our tickets.
And yet, 65 never manages to live up to its concept and ends up being a jurassic dud.
If there's one thing in 65's favour it's the short runtime, which means it wastes little time setting up its strong concept. On an extended convoy mission, Mills (Driver) is powerless to prevent his ship colliding into an uncharted asteroid belt, leading to it crash-landing on Earth (not that he knows that).
All of his passengers are killed in the collision – or so Mills thinks until he's alerted to a surviving passenger, Koa (Ariana Greenblatt). Together, they must trek across this unknown terrain filled with danger to reach the one remaining escape vehicle.
That's it, plot-wise. Like with A Quiet Place, Beck and Woods keep things lean to focus on the characters and thrills, but unlike A Quiet Place, 65 never manages to get the pulse racing or even get you to fully care about the characters.
Both Mills and Koa are given backstories – he needs to get back to his family, she is looking for her parents – but they're dealt with in broad strokes. There's no real depth or subtlety here with an obvious metaphor of Mills trying to protect Koa like he couldn't his own daughter, so the emotional beats never land as you see them coming a mile off.
Adam Driver is as committed as ever, but he's in the wrong movie. Beck and Woods certainly want to hit on deeper themes of grief and death, yet their own concept is inherently ridiculous so it's a tonal misfire. A climactic moment, which we won't spoil here, involving a hologram is unintentionally hilarious rather than heartbreaking.
We're not saying that 65 should have leant into the silliness, but it doesn't help that Cocaine Bear recently showed how you can take an OTT concept and give it heart. Here, there are dark, adult moments (such as Mills considering suicide) and they mesh awkwardly with the family-friendly sci-fi action.
It's not all a total chore to sit through. When Beck and Woods do switch to the dinosaur action, they know how to build tension in a contained setting. The movie's stand-out set piece takes place in a cave as Mills faces off in almost-total darkness against a dino foe, giving you a sense of the movie 65 could have been.
You have to forgive the CG nature of the dinosaurs, but the idea of making dinosaurs an alien threat is one of the few ideas that actually works. Although the less said about where this story actually ends up, the better, even if the awkward nature of the final montage is a perfect capper to the confused tone of the entire movie.
There's an overall feeling that Beck and Woods had two movies they wanted to make: an exploration of grief and how to work through it, and a family blockbuster with big dinosaur action. Instead of keeping them to separate movies, they merged them together and didn't succeed with either.
You might think you couldn't go wrong with dinosaurs and sci-fi, but 65 proves that you absolutely can.
65 is out now in cinemas.
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