65 (PG-13) ★★½

Review Date: March 10th, 2023

If all you're looking for out of a movie is Adam Driver running around in a jungle shooting dinosaurs while protecting a young girl, 65 delivers in spades. If you're hoping for something more complex, either in terms of character development, background narrative, or world-building, the movie has neither the time nor the patience to accommodate. The dino special effects are adequate for the job (better than in 1993's Jurassic Park but inferior to those in the third installment of the Jurassic World series) and Driver appears committed to the work. The running length is a svelte 93 minutes, meaning that 65 isn't around long enough to wear out its welcome. By keeping its goals limited, it's able to deliver what it promises, and that stands for something. I'll admit I was more entertained by this high-concept sci-fi adventure than half the films I have seen thus far in 2023.

In their directorial debut, Scott Beck & Bryan Woods (the writers of A Quiet Place) keep it simple. The plot could be the template for a video game: get the hero from Point A to Point B without dying. Along the way, there are various impediments that have to be overcome: rockslides, steam geysers, quicksand, and (of) course dinosaurs. 65 mixes in an Aliens-inspired subplot about a lone, grieving adult "adopting" and orphaned young girl. At no point, however, does Adam Driver say to any of the dinosaurs, "Get away from her, you bitch!"

65's perspective is interesting as it presents a visitation by human aliens to the last hours of the Cretaceous Period. One of the film's small pleasures is the way it presents a porthole into the world of the dinosaurs on the final day of their existence. The movie ends with The Big One colliding with the planet but we're given plenty of foreknowledge of the event. Fragments of the rogue asteroid disable a spaceship piloted by Mills (Driver), causing it to crash-land on prehistoric Earth. There are only two survivors: Mills and Koa (Ariana Greenblatt), a teenage girl whose parents didn't make it. The ship breaks into two pieces on impact with the escape pod being some 13 miles away from the rest of the craft. In order to escape before being burned up by the impending asteroid hit or gobbled up by a T-Rex, Mills and Koa have to navigate the inhospitable terrain while keeping an eye on the ever-brightening danger in the sky. Communication between them is difficult because they don't speak the same language. (He teaches her key words like "family" and "shit.")

To be fair, the movie tries to inject an emotional component into the relationship between Mills and Koa by providing (via flashbacks) images of his daughter (Chloe Coleman) who died of an unspecified disease while Mills was performing this years-long mission. The bond that develops is organic but there's not enough time for it to flourish. Like a lot of 65, it seems rushed. That's where the video game parallel is at its strongest. Anything tangential to the action scenes and money shots is shunted into the background.

One could argue that 65 is real throw-back - all the way back to the 1920s and 1930s, when monster movies could enthrall and amaze. The first two-thirds of King Kong, after all, focused on explorers wandering around a prehistoric jungle and encountering dinosaurs. 65 has all the advantages of modern technology but it's not significantly more sophisticated than the movies of Willis O'Brien. This is the kind of production that provides a couple of memorable moments (the T-Rex "reveal," which is spoiled by the trailers, being the most notable) but somehow seems smaller than it should. Maybe that's because we have been trained to expect that a menagerie like this is appropriate only for epics while the most lofty goal 65 can claim is being a slickly-made B movie.

© 2023 James Berardinelli