By Josh Reilly B. and George Bate
In modern cinema, it seems as if the Jurassic Park franchise has a monopoly on dinosaur storytelling. The iconic movie series and the sheer ingenuity of the original film’s premise made it so that an entire generation were hooked on these prehistoric creatures.
Filmmakers Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, the creative minds behind A Quiet Place, said that they themselves were inspired by Jurassic Park to make their new movie 65, in theaters this weekend. As the directors said during the press tour for the film, Jurassic Park helped create a fascination with these now-extinct creatures, something that the duo tapped into in 65.
65 follows Mills, played by Academy Award nominated actor Adam Driver, as a spaceship crashes down on a mysterious planet and leaves almost no survivors. The only ones left are Mills and Koa (Arianna Greenblatt), and the two form a father/daughter type bond. What they come to realize is that they are trapped on prehistoric Earth, occupying the world at the same time as the dinosaurs once ruled. It’s a premise that mirrors that of the original Planet of the Apes film, where a group of explorers crash land on what they believe to be a foreign planet but later learn that they are actually on a very unfamiliar version of Earth, and one that serves as a hook premise that is sure to entice audiences to come to the theater this weekend. The key different here, though, is that Mills and Koa are not utilizing time travel in their journey, and are instead from another planet and happen to resemble humans.
Perhaps the most surprising element of 65 is that the dinosaurs don’t have a massive impact on the film overall. The rough terrain of Earth and the impeding doom of the asteroids crash landing on the planet all pose a greater threat than the dinosaurs do, which does feel like a missed opportunity. When these monsters do appear, they are executed well and are frightening enough to keep the movie engaging throughout. The moment when a T-Rex pokes its head by the cave that Mills and Koa are sleeping in is terrifying, and the only real shame about the sequence is that it was shown in the trailers.
Adam Driver’s character also has an effective character arc throughout, spearheaded by his motivation to go on the mission in order to pay for treatment for his sick daughter. His daughter unfortunately dies while on the expedition, but the void in his life and his heart seems to be filled by Koa, who is of a similar age to his own child. As predicted, Driver does an excellent job again here, even as he doesn’t have too much dialogue or anyone to really interact with on a personal level.
Koa speaks a different language than Mills throughout, making communication almost impossible, which is a novel idea (and one that plays into the science fiction genre), but it does leave a few elements lacking at times. The film does a good job of building tension, but only sometimes, meaning that the moments in which the stakes aren’t as high are left feeling a little flat at times. While promoting the film, Driver commented that early drafts of the script had no dialogue at all, something that audiences are sure to get a feeling about, especially as the the film goes on.
Direction wise, Beck and Woods prove to be capable behind the camera throughout. There’s nothing mind blowing about the directing of 65, but the duo plays it straightforward and does their job throughout. The action is easy to see and understand, and the world is given a proper huge scale that it deserves, as do the dinosaurs inhabiting the planet.
Another particular highlight is Ariana Greenblatt, who does well to convey genuine emotion even without the use of a recognizable language. Greenblatt and Driver have chemistry, even if they aren’t communicating with words, which makes their adoptive father/daughter relationship that much stronger.
The most refreshing aspect of 65 is that it is simply a standalone sci-fi action thriller, not serving a greater purpose or playing into an overall narrative. Ultimately, there aren’t enough original movies in theaters these days, particularly with the rise of streaming, so it’s nice to a film like 65 attract a big name actor and get its time in the spotlight.
65 is an enjoyable sci-fi action movie, and a throwback of sorts to the days when studios bet big on original films with famous lead actors. The dinosaurs don’t quite play as big of a role as one would hope, nor do they make an impact in the way that they should, but Beck and Woods keep proceedings entertaining throughout.