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65 (12A)

Director: Scott Beck, Bryan Woods
Screenplay: Scott Beck, Bryan Woods

Starring: Adam Driver, Ariana Greenblatt, Chloe Coleman

Review: David Stephens

Remember the seminal Planet of the Apes movie? The good one in 1968, not the Tim Burton atrocity in 2001 that is. Adapted from the Pierre Boulle novel, this was the ultimate “fish-out-of-water” story with US astronauts dealing with a future world full of intelligent and evolved apes. For all intents and purposes, 65 looked like a reverse version of that concept in the trailers. Adam Driver is a ray-gun-toting space pilot on an Earth full of dinosaurs. Written and directed by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, who are best known for their writing work on A Quiet Place, it is also produced by Evil Dead alumni Sam Raimi. So the credentials and promise are there for a rip-roaring variant on survival horror, bringing us some proper dino-shocks after the disappointment of the recent Jurassic World misfiring sequels. Interviews with Driver suggested that he supported the project as a way to reach a wider mainstream audience and liked the story. The film also provides a co-starring showcase for young actress Ariana Greenblatt who was in 2020’s Love and Monsters, as a fellow survivor. It must be said that initial reviews haven’t been … err … great and it’s unfortunate that it has the same opening weekend as the attention-grabbing Scream VI. Nevertheless, we were still keen to see if it was dino-poor or monstrous fun.


For those of us who got it wrong with the time-travel assumption (turns out that getting good health insurance is a bitch to folk ALL over the galaxy … that’ll make sense when you watch the first scene), it all starts with the introduction of jobbing stellar jockey Mills (Driver), showing his qualities as a dedicated Dad. One asteroid crash later, he splats down on prehistoric Earth and finds that 99.9% of his cryo-sleeping passengers have succumbed to permanent shut-eye. The only other survivor (for no discernible reason apart from luck and plot needs) is a young girl (Greenblatt) whom he recovers from the nearby swamp and brings back to consciousness. Called Koa (which is Hawaiian for “Warrior”, fact fans!) it’s immediately apparent that she comes from a different social group and there is a language barrier that could complicate their survival. Nevertheless, they must work together to reach another crash site and try to rendezvous with a rescue vehicle. It’s just a case of surviving all the predatory dinos on their track, as well as something that may be even deadlier…


There’s nothing wrong with simplicity. Most great films can be boiled down to very simple concepts. In this case, it’s mostly “Crash – Survive – Escape”. The appeal of a genre movie or mainstream thriller will often hinge significantly on what extra ingredients can be slavered on top of that and the effects they have. In this case,  the potentially yummy toppings are vicious dinosaurs, future tech, Driver getting shooty, and high-tension in the style of A Quiet Place. Well, it should be tasty, but it turns out to be not enough. Cards on the table here. There is absolutely nothing wrong with 65 on a technical basis. Both Driver and Greenblatt are absolutely fine and emote well. For those that don’t know, Driver served in the Marines for two years, so he looks authentic with weaponry and combat. He also provides a couple of powerful scenes when contemplating taking his own life and when a rockfall causes problems. Greenblatt is also pretty good, giving her character a real edge and capability in later scenes.


So what about the dinos? Well … they’re here. Perhaps not as many as you would expect. The CGI-ed population is fairly slim. Some raptors, some Komodo Dragon-things (small and huge), some flying reptiles, and the obligatory T-Rex. They all look convincing enough and solid, but we expect nothing less from bigger-budgeted films mow. This is where we start to come across the main issues. There’s just not anything new or exciting in the mix. The only relatively fresh aspect is the minimal amount of futuristic weaponry that Mills has, and that’s just some mini-grenades and a zap rifle. Those are handy for some confrontations, but it still means that running and hiding are the best options for much of the story. Over its relatively short running time (93 minutes), it’s mostly just Driver hyper-ventilating or grimacing in pain as generic dinosaurs cause trouble for him and his companion.


The narrative does throw a couple of other things into the plot. These are mostly on the maudlin side, with mortality and loss being the main theme, as well as the importance of family. Some pre-release articles seem to suggest that the tone was on the more mature side at one point, but as it stands it’s now very much a family-friendly production. Apart from some “shits” (exclamations not defecations) and an ouchy shrapnel wound, there’s nothing here that would trouble most youngsters as befits its 12A rating in the UK. So it feels a little “safe” in some ways and it’s certainly predictable. A narrative development can be seen (literally) from space, and the importance of some things is very much signposted. You don’t feature acidic geysers and poisonous berries to that extent unless they’re going to be used later on.


In fact, it feels like a curiously old-fashioned Disney live-action film or family studio movie in certain ways. They even have that adventure-serial trope of someone falling in quicksand and sinking unconvincingly into the mire after flailing around a little bit. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that if that’s what you’re after. It could be an ideal “entry point” film if you want to get a younger family member into monster movies or horror thrillers. It’s just with the pedigree and the concept, most of us were expecting something a little more exciting and innovative. Again, it’s technically filmed and acted well, but there’s nothing here that hasn’t already been filtered into Jurassic Park films or rip-offs. Even the T-Rex eyeballing victims through a windshield is in there. 


But if you are in the mood for a “nostalgic” Saturday Afternoon movie with chases and overly sentimental moments, you may well appreciate this more for what it is. There’s an excellent early jump-scare with a mini-raptor and older film buffs will get a kick out of spotting some Easter Eggs, such as the War of the Worlds (1953 version) sound FX being used prominently at the crash site. Otherwise, this well-made but oddly old-fashioned fare will soon be forgotten once you’ve seen it and will probably go down as a slightly missed opportunity.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with “65”. It has good acting, solid FX, and a coherent narrative. It’s just a bit predictable and … dare we say it … dull. A decent enough time-waster and family-orientated genre experience, but it doesn’t ever get thrilling, adventurous, or do anything particularly inventive with the set-up. So, it’s okay, but we were really expecting something more primal…
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