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65 (Film Review)

3 min read

The critical dunking for 65 is overkill—although it's a weird film for star to do. Sure, Driver's slumming it here after working with every auteur, including Jim Jarmusch, Martin Scorsese, Noah Baumbach, Terry Gilliam, Leos Carax and Ridley Scott to name just a few. It's what I would call a “programmer”—a film to fill out the programme in a multiplex, but I think Driver signed up because it was written and directed by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, the writers behind A Quiet Place, which was a very good science fiction thriller.

Driver is Mills, a spacecraft pilot from the planet Somaris. He's on a two-year mission to get enough money to treat an illness suffered by his daughter, Nevine. He ends up on a planet that turns out to be Earth, 65 million years ago so prehistoric time including dinosaurs! His spaceship has crashed and is badly damaged, but there's a chance of getting back to his home planet using a shuttle. There's one survivor, Koa, a young girl who doesn't speak his language. He tries to teach her his language so they can communicate while they try to get to the shuttle, which has landed somewhere else on the planet. Of course, they've got to navigate a landscape with predatory dinosaurs and other hazards on the way.

It's a perfectly serviceable movie that comes in at a very brisk 90 minutes—and that really helps the film. It was shot in Kisatchie National Forest in Louisiana, which stands in nicely for a swampy prehistoric world, and also in Oregon. The film is very derivative, of course, reminiscent of everything from Jurassic Park to the Steven Soderbergh version of Solaris, with a little bit of Planet of the Apes. The whole thing is between this guy and a kid who ends up essentially being his surrogate daughter, as in The Last of Us.

It's actually quite fun to see a mid-budget science fiction film that isn't too fussy. The dinosaurs pop up pretty quickly, and it moves along at a good pace. While it's nothing special, 65 is absolutely fine—which is why the critical reception is baffling. Perhaps some critics imagine that Driver will only do auteur-driven films? It's not high art, it's like a B-movie with a good budget. A few of the dinos look a bit off (admittedly, it's hard not to think of Jurassic Park when you see a film with dinosaurs, and of course it had a much bigger budget for special effects and half of those are animatronics), but I'd rather see this than any of the Jurassic World movies. Driver turns in a committed performance, and it has some good set-pieces. Not to throw a spoiler out there, but there's also an apocalyptic turn at one point that is quite visually arresting. It also has a decent score by Chris Bacon, who stepped in for long-time collaborator Danny Elfman after he excited the film mid-picture.

The film was continuously delayed, and was originally meant to be released in May 2022. Given the reported $45 million budget, I'm not sure why Sony didn't sell it to a streamer. It feels like it would have been a good purchase for Netflix, Amazon or Apple, just so Sony could wash their hands of it without losing any money. I don't think 65 will have the longevity of A Quiet Place—Beck and Woods might have been hoping it would be the start of a franchise—but in this day and age where everything needs to be a cog in a cinematic universe or amazingly “original,” it's a perfectly good, slightly loopy sci-fi action film. So if you're planning to see something like Cocaine Bear or Scream 6 and are thinking of making it a double feature at the cinema, you could do a lot worse than adding 65 to the bill.

65 is out now in UK cinemas.