Movie Review: ’65’ is a 90-minute romp that’s more ‘Cocaine Bear’ than ‘A Quiet Place’

Poster for the film “65” staring Adam Driver. – Courtesy of Mortimer PR

I was lucky enough to see the trailer for 65 with no context. It spelled out a familiar tale: High-tech space explorers crash land on an unidentified planet where danger lurks in the shadows. If you’re familiar with the work of co-directors Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, you know that’s their specialty.

But unlike their box-office smash A Quiet Place, the threatening figures in this movie are surprisingly less alien. Ninety seconds into the trailer, a title card fades in: “65… Million Years Ago”. A lightning strike illuminates the silhouette of a tyrannosaurus rex. A Barbarian-esque twist reveals you only think you know what kind of story is about to unfold. I cackle loud enough to annoy anyone else in the theater.

As a professional Movie Enjoyer™ I can vouch that the trailer is basically all you need to tell if you will enjoy this feature, but they won’t let me stop the review there, so let me elaborate.

65 stars Adam Driver as Mills, a melancholic space pilot from a technologically advanced society, who’s taken on a long and dangerous voyage to shuttle cryogenically frozen passengers across the cosmos to pay for his daughter’s medical care. After unexpected space-turbulence, his ship is marooned on a prehistoric Earth. The only other survivor is a young girl named Koa (Ariana Greenblatt), who unfortunately doesn’t speak space-English. Mills must conquer the barrier of communication as well as dinosaurs to reach a dislodged escape pod and get them both home safe.

The strength of this movie is its tension. Stuck in an unfamiliar outdoors environment with seemingly no coverage, the characters are never safe from cretaceous creatures, large and small, that threaten them. I’m not a paleontologist, but it feels like they were having fun with the creature design too. No spoilers, but there were some creepy crawlies and a “final boss” that seemed to me more narratively crafted than scientifically accurate. But that’s all part of the fun!

Greenblatt’s precocious character is interesting, but the script underserves her by robbing her of a chance to have her own voice in the story. Driver’s emotional arc through the film also feels somewhat surface-level. His story is plainly telegraphed to the audience to give the beats of grief and a surrogate father-daughter bond, but without really developing those emotions.

It’s a tight film that focuses more on its successful action set pieces that keep the story moving. If you’ve been on social media lately you may have seen the rise of contempt for the three-plus hour Oscar-bait epic. Rest assured you’re safe here.

Bookended with some gorgeous cinematics, 65 is a 90-minute action romp. If Cocaine Bear was your idea of a good time at the theaters, I think you’ll enjoy your time with this one.

65 is now in theaters.

– Adam Sparks