A fun scifi-action premise held back by a lack of dinosaurs and a lack of chemistry between the two lead actors.

At some point during the Cretaceous period some 65 million years ago, an astronaut from another planet crash lands on Earth and must navigate the deadly prehistoric environment in order to protect a young survivor and find a way back home. I didn’t expect too much from 65 since the premise is basically space people vs dinosaurs, which is appropriate as I didn’t really get more than that as most of the dinosaurs promised by the trailer never showed up.

Astronaut pilot Mills (Adam Driver) hails from the planet Somaris. He accepts a high paying two-year space assignment to help pay for a medical treatment for his sick daughter, Nevine (Chloe Coleman). However, his plans go awry when his ship is damaged during the mission and he crashes on an unknown planet: Earth.

With all passengers killed on impact except for a young girl named Koa (Ariana Greenblatt), Mills finds himself taking on the role as a protector for Koa. In order to get off the planet and be picked up by a rescue team, the two need to traverse 15 kilometers on foot across a dangerous and unknown prehistoric landscape to reach an escape shuttle that broke off during their entry and crashed on a mountain.

There’s another problem: Mills and Koa don’t speak the same language. The two must make their journey across a dangerous landscape while trying to avoid being eaten by the planet’s dominant predators: dinosaurs. But as they travel through forests, marshes and underground caves, Mills soon discovers there’s another threat much larger than their reptilian adversaries.

Adam Driver delivers a strong performance as an astronaut from another planet pushed to his physical and emotional limits in order to protect a young girl from a dangerous, alien wilderness filled with dinosaurs (well not quite so filled for the first half of the movie). Despite a lackluster script that has him walking for a good part of the story, Driver nonetheless captivates the audience with his character’s determination and frailty.

While the character of Mills could easily be mistaken as simply being the tough protector who is adept at surviving on the land through the use of his tools and combat training, the truth is he is at an extreme emotional low and dealing with a lot of internal struggle. We learn this early on when he considers suicide soon after crashing on Earth. It’s his newfound purpose of protecting the vulnerable Koa where Mills finds a reason to push forward and Driver effortlessly portrays that mix of strength and suffering.

Ariana Greenblatt is also great playing the frightened and sometimes annoying Koa who doesn’t know her parents died in the crash landing. Greenblatt easily portrays a child who swings from being cautious and sometimes terrified to the cheeky little prankster who pulls faces when the adult has their back turned. However, despite being limited to speaking in an unknown language, Greenblatt was still capable of conveying what needed to be conveyed through mostly body language.

While I don’t think there was anything wrong with the casting, it’s their chemistry that lets the film down. When alone on screen both Driver and Greenblatt each deliver very sound performances, it’s only when interacting with each other that something isn’t quite right. This is evident whenever the filmmakers try to garner a laugh. It also affects the bond they form over the course of the story because it just feels like they’re bonding because it says so in the script, not because there’s any real connection between the actors. Which is a pity because the pair makes up most of the screen time.

Co-directors – and co-writers – Scott Beck and Bryan Woods (A Quiet Place, Nightlight) have made an adequate sci-fi action-thriller based on a simple yet solid premise – one using a gimmick we’ve seen them employ before – that often falls short in delivering what might have been a truly great experience.

While this film has a wonderful runtime of 93-minutes (it’s nice to get a break from super long movies), not a lot really happens for a good amount of that time. I understand the premise is simple, but there’s only so much entertainment value in watching Adam Driver wander around the wilderness while encountering no dinosaurs or simply just traveling from A to B. I’m sorry, these aren’t the Hobbits from Lord of the Rings. We really needed something with a bit more substance to happen in the story – especially when there aren’t any other characters we can jump to and follow..

The biggest fumble which I’ve previously mentioned is that a large part of the film goes by without any dinosaur encounters. It’s like the writers wanted to treat this like a horror movie where you build up to reveal the creature/monster. But in a landscape where dinosaurs are meant to be everywhere as they’re the natural dominant inhabitants of the planet. This is especially true when they encounter the beasts en masse later on in the story. At least the dinos looked fantastic when we finally did get to see them and the action was also handled very well.

Despite shortchanging the audience on the amount of dinosaurs our heroes should have encountered, 65 is still entertaining enough and a far better dinosaur movie than Jurassic World Dominion. Both Driver and Greenblatt still deliver strong performances where you care whether or not they’ll survive, even if their onscreen chemistry falls flat. There was definitely a better version of this story that perhaps some more editing (and more dinosaurs) could have brought out, but it still mostly delivered on its premise.

  • MPAA Rating: PG-13
  • Release Date: March 10, 2023
  • Distributor: Columbia Pictures

Originally published on March 14, 2023 at https://www.popzara.com/movies/movie-reviews/65-2023/