Film reviews and more since 2009

65 (2023) review

Dir. Scott Beck and Bryan Woods

By: Steve Pulaski

Rating: ★★

The potential of 65 to be a game-changing science-fiction actioneer was very small from the jump. However, it has all the right ingredients to be a memorable midsized action programmer. Its writers and directors are Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, the minds behind A Quiet Place, and Adam Driver is the ideal “driver” of an end-of-winter romp through the Cretaceous period. Sam Raimi as producer is the icing on the cake.

However, 65 is a cake that’s bland and tasteless; a miserably self-serious film that needed to embrace the inherent silliness afforded by its prologue, which contextualizes its title:

65
Million Years Ago
Prehistoric Earth Had a Visitor

Those nine words allude to a pulpy exercise in genre-filmmaking, the kind Beck and Woods have been delivering for nearly 10 years. But with a paper-thin premise, unsubtle emotional crescendos, and a familiar array of running-and-gunning, 65 stalls almost immediately upon arrival.

The film opens with family man Mills (Driver) spending time at the beach with his wife and his sick daughter. His upcoming expedition will allow him to pay for the treatment his child so desperately needs, but the time away will be long and brutal. In the middle of the voyage, his ship is struck by an unaccounted asteroid, and the wreckage kills all of the (unseen) crewmembers. Mills comes close to committing suicide until he finds another survivor, Koa (Ariana Greenblatt), a young girl who doesn’t speak his language. The two are left to fend for themselves amongst various dinosaurs (“aliens”), which Mills zaps with his laser-gun — even Beck and Woods downplay the fun that should be inherent in that concept.

The deep and morbidly humorous irony of Mills crash-landing onto Earth at the ass-end of the Cretaceous period is that, even if he and Koa should survive, an asteroid was going to sully their rescue and journey home anyways. It’s an ending fit for the Curb Your Enthusiasm theme song, “Frolic.” But there is no humor in 65, one of its most fatal flaws. The communication barrier between Mills and Koa results in fragmented moments of bonding, which are underscored as she manages to learn a few words such as “mountain.” Other moments come in the form of Koa watching videos sent by Mills’ daughter, as her condition deteriorates.

These are scenes that should pack an emotional wallop. On the contrary. 65 is liable to leave you cold and unmoved. Part of the problem is Beck and Woods subscribe such little personality to these characters that they devolve into archetypes almost instantly. The most powerful moment of pathos comes when Mills believes his failure to act quickly has left Koa trapped in a tight cave. Driver lets out a scream that shows he’s been practicing his helpless wails ever since he was unfairly ribbed for his moment of outrage in the Oscar-nominated Marriage Story. It works because it’s so impulsive and raw, unlike most other manufactured scenes within the film that feel heavily telegraphed in hopes of obtaining the same reaction.

I have desperately little to say about 65 other than it’s not very good. One of the few positives is much of the film takes place outdoors. Thick forests and muddy terrain engulf these characters: a credit to cinematographer Salvatore Totino for at least making the film aesthetically vibrant even in its dreariness. But this twofer reveals itself not to have any meaningful carnage from the moment it introduces the main character and a rescued little girl; even someone who doesn’t see many movies knows neither will die in their fight for survival. That lessens the stakes from the jump, and makes 65 more of a slog despite its brief yet inconsequential 90-minute runtime.

NOTE: 65 is now playing exclusively in theaters.

Starring: Adam Driver, Ariana Greenblatt, Chloe Coleman, and Nika King. Directed by: Scott Beck and Bryan Woods.

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About Steve Pulaski

Steve Pulaski has been reviewing movies since 2009 for a barrage of different outlets. He graduated North Central College in 2018 and currently works as an on-air radio personality. He also hosts a weekly movie podcast called "Sleepless with Steve," dedicated to film and the film industry, on his YouTube channel. In addition to writing, he's a die-hard Chicago Bears fan and has two cats, appropriately named Siskel and Ebert!

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