Review by Daniel Blackaby March 10, 2023
65 (Christian Movie Review)
Verdict: A brisk, competent thriller that provides diverting entertainment and thrills but is never as enjoyable as a movie about Adam Driver fighting dinosaurs should be.
About The Movie
In an era of mammoth movie lengths, endless sequels, expansive worldbuilding, and cross-media storytelling, there is something undeniably charming about a film like 65. The movie promises Adam Driver fighting dinosaurs and gives audiences precisely that, nothing less and nothing more. It’s the type of film Hollywood needs, but it probably won’t inspire more.
With a brisk 1:30 runtime, the film doesn’t waste much time with table setting. Instead, it gets right to the meat. A brief opening scene provides a vague introduction to Adam Driver’s character and the setting. He’s a man named Mills from a distant planet who must embark on an exploratory space journey to earn enough money to buy treatment for his sick daughter. What’s her illness? What’s the objective of the expedition? How does this civilization from another planet factor into Earth’s history? The movie isn’t interested in answering these questions. By the second scene, the spacecraft is crashlanding on Earth and then…dinosaurs! Run!
I’m the target audience for this film. This type of survival thriller/creature movie lands right in my sweet spot. That the script was created by the writers of A Quiet Place, one of my favorite recent movies, added to my optimism. And while I ultimately enjoyed this film (perhaps more than most), 65 sometimes feels like the first draft of a much better movie.
The film has a lot of promising elements. Adam Driver is great because, let’s face it, Adam Driver is always great. The writers also wisely resist the temptation to add needless complexity to the simple story. The relationship between Driver’s character and a young girl named Koa (Ariana Greenblatt), the only other known survivor of the crash, is compelling, especially due to a language barrier between them. The dinosaurs are also interesting. Despite being CGI creations, they have a throwback, almost stop-motion-esque appearance that fits the B-movie vibe. All these elements are primed for a solid story, but the movie fails to make the most of them.
The main problem with 65 is that it’s just not as much fun as a movie about Adam Driver fighting dinosaurs should be. There’s action and some exciting moments, but the film never manages to maintain hold-your-breath tension. The movie should inspire audiences to better appreciate the creative genius of Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park. In 65, the story is more action than thriller, and characters shooting a pack of charging dinosaurs with a high-power space-gun just isn’t as thrilling as characters being hunted by them. Rather than escalating tension and a looming threat, dinosaurs seem to appear whenever an action scene is needed.
In the end, 65 is not a bad movie; it’s just not a particularly good one. As a simple thriller about Adam Driver fighting dinosaurs, it works well. There’s high enough emotional stakes to prevent it from feeling mindless, but not too much backstory and human drama to get bogged down and overstay its welcome. Audiences expecting clever and captivating storytelling will not find much to sink their teeth into, but those with a nagging itch to see Adam Driver fight some dinosaurs should find enough in 65 for a satisfying scratch.
On the Surface
Language: A handful of minor profanities (mostly “sh—”).
Violence: Human characters perish in the crash, and some blood is visible. A character receives several injuries and bloody wounds. Several creatures die, including one whose skin is melted by boiling water.
Other: The opening title card establishes that the story takes place 65 million years ago “before the advent of humanity.” The premise left me curious whether the film would ultimately offer any twists that recontextualize the biblical creation account (ie. what if he gets stranded and becomes the film’s version of Adam, Earth’s first human?). But the movie doesn’t go in that direction. The fact that the planet is Earth and the “aliens” are dinosaurs is wholly irrelevant to the story.
Beneath The Surface
Engage The Film
Let’s be honest. You don’t go see a movie like 65 looking for deep, philosophical themes. You watch it to see Adam Driver fight dinosaurs. Unlike many sci-fi films, 65 is not interested in probing existential questions. If there is a subtle underlying theme, it is one about shared humanity.
One of the most interesting creative decisions in the film is to introduce a language barrier between the two human characters. In a story featuring only two characters, removing their ability to verbally communicate is a bold and fascinating choice. Throughout their journey across prehistoric Earth, they must learn to communicate in other ways. In the process, they discover that they have more in common than they first thought. Both have experienced grief and long for family. Koa, the young girl, is captivated by recorded videos of Mills’ daughter and feels a clear connection, despite being strangers. As a father to a daughter, Mills understands Koa.
Immediately following the crash, Mills despairs. He is reluctant even to send a distress call, and he is on the brink of committing suicide. It is only after discovering Koa that he regains a sense of purpose and a will to survive. It may not be a particularly deep theme, but it is a wholesome message that people have a shared humanity that is worth fighting for.