Just four years on from his Star Wars swan song, Adam Driver’s return to intergalactic space hopping is…well, it’s underwhelming. A half baked elevator pitch, cut to the core for the benefit of a palatably brief runtime. The result is a choppy editorial mess. A film laden with seismic holes. That’s even before the ‘catastrophic asteroid’ strikes.
To his credit, Driver plays things with admirable conviction. His role, as the loosely sketched Mills, recalls a composite of Sandra Bullock’s stranded astronaut in Gravity and the paternal strife faced by Matthew McConaughey’s Cooper in Interstellar. A script by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods – who direct too – gifts Driver neither the emotional intensity of the former nor dramatic complexity of the latter but does at least allow the opportunity to get his hands dirty. Even where 65 fails to compel, the film’s torture porn credentials keep things spiky. Paired with newcomer Ariana Greenblatt – as was Hugh Jackman with Dafne Keen in Logan – Driver benefits too from vibrant communicative interplay.
Shot in the early Covid era – an alarming five release dates preceded the one eventually settled upon by Sony – 65 can’t help but feel hampered by logistics. It’s hard, for instance, to believe that the film’s horribly truncated opening exists as originally intended. Nika King and Chloe Coleman enjoy fewer than five minutes of expositionary screen time, as requisite wife and terminally ill daughter, before Mills is whisked away into space on some vaguely defined colonial mission. As it transpires, Mills is not in fact human but one in a civilisation that predates our own by tens of millions of years. This is all means to an end material. What matters here is getting Driver from A to B so the ‘fun’ can begin.
Mills’ rocket is chockablock with cryogenically frozen recruits but don’t worry about them. Not thirty seconds into his mission, Mills is struck by a fragment of a much larger and more deadly asteroid and crash lands onto a murky and hitherto undiscovered planet. Here’s the twist then: said planet is Earth, sixty-five million years ago at the tail end of the Cretaceous period. Mills’ sole hope of survival is the remarkably in damaged escape pod his ship dumped some twelve kilometres off. In his way is a planet still covered in dinosaurs.
For all the success of Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, the inherent coolness of dinosaurs remains relatively untapped in the multiplex. While Beck and Woods rather fumble the film’s big reveal, highlights include pulse quickening raptor wrestling and a wicked sequence in which Greenblatt’s Koa rescues a cutsie little dino from deadly quicksand, only for the tyranno-tot to be immediately ripped to shreds by bigger beasts. Beck and Woods work the inherent tension of such brutality to great effect and have a nifty eye for arresting visuals. A shot in which Mills is framed against a giant T-Rex skull, geysir gasses rippling through its flesh deprived nostrils, lingers powerfully in the mind.
It’s in the coherency of their whole that the pair falter. 65 is only fleetingly compelling, crippled both by risible narrative errors and an overarching sense of disjointedness. It’s not daft enough to fuel a sugar rush but neither has it the weight of the film it clearly wishes to be. A spurious relationship between daytime and night is one thing. A failure to achieve consistent and honest final development is another entirely.