It was clear before 65 even arrived that something was amiss with this project. Two planned release dates were swiftly abandoned, as though the project were seeking a landing at a time when not much else was happening cinema-wise. On paper, the premise sounds good. Adam Driver versus dinosaurs? What could possibly go wrong?
From the get-go, 65 requires viewers to accept a pretty unlikely set-up – that somewhere in the universe, sixty-five million years ago, a planet existed where the inhabits looked human, acted human and some of them even spoke perfect English. This is by no means a spoiler, it’s spelled out in text in the film’s opening moments. Mills (Driver) is a spaceship pilot, who has recently been charged with the task of heading up a two-year mission (we’re never given any of the details of what he’s expected to achieve out there). He’s agreed to leave his – everyday sexism alert! – un-named wife (Nika King) and his daughter, Nevine (Chloe Coleman), back on his home planet because the latter is suffering from an unspecified illness and Mills will now be earning triple his usual wages, which will no doubt pay for all those pesky hospital bills.
A year or so later, he’s travelling through space in a ship that’s also carrying a group of anonymous passengers in suspended animation (again we’re not trusted with an explanation for this), when a sudden meteor strike sends the ship hurtling towards an unknown planet. Mills survives the subsequent crash, along with a nine-year-old girl, Koa (Ariana Greenblatt). Now the two of them must somehow make their way to the ship’s escape pod, which is inconveniently stranded on top of a mountain.
The planet? It’s Earth. And it’s heavily populated by dinosaurs…
The term ‘stripped-back’ has never felt more appropriate – and, while the set-up strains credulity, it’s simply and effectively done. But once Mills and Koa are installed on this hostile planet, the film has nothing left but a series of frantic chases as our two heroes are pursued hither and thither by a bunch of scaly co-stars with no higher ambition than to eat their visitors. While the film looks great (the scenes shot in the Florida Everglades are particularly eye-catching), the inevitable result is monotony.
Attempts to vary things up are mostly centred around Mill’s recorded memories of his daughter – though, curiously there are none of his wife. (Did they fall out? We don’t know!) I am asked to suspend my disbelief every time a miraculous event saves Mills and Koa, allowing them to escape apparently certain death by a hair’s breadth. Written and directed by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, who created the superior A Quiet Place, I can’t help feeling that at some point there must have been a lot more information built into this film, cut out piece-by-piece after successive test screenings, perhaps. This may account for the finished movie’s relatively lean running time, and I suspect that, somewhere in the archives, there’s a director’s cut, which features a lot more information than we’re offered here.
It’s by no means a terrible film. The dinosaurs are decently rendered in CGI and I’m genuinely excited by the first attack – but, by the seventh or eighth, I find myself looking at my watch, wondering when I’ll be able to achieve escape velocity.
2. 8 stars