Review: Despite Adam Driver’s attempt to deliver cinema’s next best science fiction thriller movie, 65 doesn’t successfully convey much that feels new or enticing. Lackluster pacing and storytelling make up a generally bland film stripped of any exciting elements.
65 is the latest science fiction/horror mashup movie by the directing team of Scott Beck and Bryan Woods. These two have a few other directing credits to their names – most notably the 2019 spooky flick Haunt, but they’re arguably best known as successful screenwriters for similarly styled genre hybrids like the first A Quiet Place and the recently released The Boogeyman.
Needless to say, I’m an admirer of the duo because they’re pushing along original storytelling in a fun direction with their ability to conceptualize new monster designs and cleverly staged horror movies. To this day, A Quiet Place is still one of my favorite horror movies of the 2010s because it genuinely felt fresh and invigorating, a feeling that’s hard to pull off given that it feels like everything has been attempted at some point in the horror genre.
But Scott Beck and Bryan Woods are shifting ever so slightly with their newest movie 65, one that leans heavier into science fiction and world-building, as opposed to staging clever scares and haunting imagery. I wasn’t able to catch this one in theaters for scheduling reasons, but I had my eyes set on it to catch as soon as I could when it hit VOD.
Set 65 million years ago, Mills (Adam Driver) has been put in charge of piloting a spaceship hurtling through the galaxy, with his intention being to collect enough funds to help his daughter survive from an undisclosed debilitating disease. The ship meets a strong asteroid belt that sends them crash-landing to prehistoric Earth – and only Mills and a young girl, Koa (Ariana Greenblatt), survive the crash.
Through some sticky and force fed plot, we learn that a functionable escape vessel is within a travelable distance for the duo, but along the way they’ll meet harmful animals and plants that’ll test their survival instincts and their ability to work with one another.
It’s been well-documented at this point that 65 is rather minimal and dull in its approach. Aside from a few bits of classic sci-fi iconography – the techy weapons and maps that help lead them to their final goal – this could easily be presented as an understated outdoorsy drama. The moments in between the few battles with computer generated dinosaurs are filled with Mills having to communicate in ways outside of language because of the barrier that exists between him and Koa, who is from a different community than his on their home planet of Somaris.
The movie serves as an opportunity to see whether Adam Driver can carry a new, distinctive universe outside of playing the villainous Kylo Ren in Star Wars, and while the box office performance of 65 suggests that he can’t, his actual performance here tells the opposite. The script is so bare and trite that it takes a significantly seasoned and malleable actor to elevate what little essence the movie has to work with, and Driver does his absolute best.
The critical errors in 65 are sitting right on the surface – there’s rarely any action for an action movie, or thrills for a thriller – but Adam Driver’s screen presence at least makes it palatable when he’s given the runway to show off his own physicality. This is all to say that he’s giving the movie all he’s able to, but sometimes that isn’t enough to pull it to pole position.
Because 65 is frequently capital B Boring. The concept for the movie is completely undeveloped from the one sentence elevator pitch: Adam Driver fights dinosaurs with futuristic weapons. That’s honestly all 65 is, and there isn’t even much of that. The attempt to build connective tissue between Mills and Koa is a nice sentiment and subplot for a movie, but it doesn’t amount to much because they spend so much time developing how they’ll communicate due to their differing languages.
At one point, Mills reveals that his own daughter died while he was on his expedition and that he wasn’t able to be by her side when it happened, and that piece of plot is used to build a similar father-daughter relationship between him and Koa that becomes the movie’s emotional crux, but it’s such a half-baked and obvious approach that it doesn’t even feel lifelike – like the movie is trying to build artificial stakes without going through any of the steps to get there.
65 isn’t all bad, though, because I liked some of the technical and visual impulses that Scott Beck and Bryan Woods have here. The CGI is actually pretty mesmerizing considering bigger-budget blockbusters can’t seem to get this aspect right, and when the action is coursing through the movie’s veins, its pretty rewarding. Again, Adam Driver is a physically imposing actor and his size and strength is on display as the stunts feel entirely believable and enthralling. He’s at least able to improve the movie on these fronts as I wish there was much more of this and much less of the weak establishing shots that just show that they’re camping out in a forest.
I came away from 65 feeling like it wasn’t an entirely unsuccessful film, but one that I just wish had a bit more meat to it. It’s lean at 92 minutes, but even that tight runtime can occasionally feel long and unwarranted. Let Adam Driver make something like this again! He’s got the juice, he just hasn’t found a project with lasting power and a solid script. Fingers crossed that it works out soon.
Where to watch 65: Netflix, VOD
Read reviews for movies like 65 from A Cinephile’s Corner
Film Cast and Credits
Adam Driver as Mills
Ariana Greenblatt as Koa
Chloe Coleman as Nevine
Nika King as Alya
Cinematography: Salvatore Totino
Composer: Chris Bacon
65 movie on Letterboxd
65 movie on IMDb