Some mild spoilers about the setup of the movie revolving around Adam Driver fighting dinosaurs to come.
No matter how you slice it, 65 is a goofy movie that tries to mask its goofiness by playing the dead-kid card.
Sometimes, this gambit works; the writer-director team that made 65, Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, deployed this trump a few years back with their screenplay for A Quiet Place, which was both a solidly tense thriller and a heartrending portrait of parenthood. But that movie only really asked you to make one leap—believing that aliens would come to Earth and those aliens would be super-sensitive to sound, necessitating quiet at all times—while 65 asks you to make several.
In title cards we learn that long before man roamed the Earth—65 million years ago, to be precise—an alien species roamed the galaxy, exploring, traveling, trading, you know, doing alien things.
That alien species is Man. The man representing Man is Adam Driver. Sorry: “Mills.” (Mills is just Adam Driver.) He speaks perfect English and has a sick daughter and the way he pays for her treatments is interstellar travel.
On one of those missions, his ship goes off course when he hits an unexpected asteroid belt, crash-landing on Earth. The people he was transporting have all died, except for one little girl, which gives him a reason to stave off suicidal thoughts sparked by memories of his now-dead daughter (her illness took her during the course of his two-year mission) and try to reach the escape pod located some 15 kilometers away.
Oh, also, turns out that the dinosaur-killing asteroid we all learned about during childhood is just hours away from crashing not only on Earth, but literally right on top of where Adam Driver’s spaceship crashed.
This is a really, really convoluted way of getting the audience to “Adam Driver goes back in time to fight dinosaurs to protect a kid who reminds him of his own dead kid.” I don’t know that it’s the worst way, but I’m having a hard time imagining a more complicated way.
Because all we’re really looking for here is “Adam Driver fights dinosaurs.” Think back to Cocaine Bear, a movie that neither overpromised (we were told there would be a bear on cocaine) nor underdelivered (the bear showed up on cocaine). Cocaine Bear is by no means a great movie, but it successfully delivers its high concept. Sadly, it’s hard to say the same about 65, unless you were really only interested in seeing Adam Driver on Earth 65 million years ago.
The problem with 65 is that it’s just … kind of dull? Rather than really leaning into the inherent goofiness of “future man fighting ancient predator,” and showing us said fights in graphic detail with great frequency, we’re instead treated to a kind of father-daughter drama. It’s not entirely without pleasures; Driver has a good connection with Ariana Greenblatt, the girl who plays lone-survivor Koa, and there are moments that frustrated parents will pick up on and be amused by.
Koa comes from a different part of the planet they’re from than Mills, meaning that she doesn’t speak perfect English, leading to lots of moments where Driver can make the subtext of his story text. He simply says out loud what the movie is (often successfully!) trying to convey through drama, and I guess that’s fine within the world of the movie because Koa can’t understand him. Whether it’s fine as a piece of artistry is another question; it’s certainly not subtle, but subtlety kind of flew out the window pretty early on in this picture.
Again, the problem here isn’t that 65 is terrible—ironically, it would be easier to dismiss something incompetent, a movie focused on an actor less inherently interesting than Driver—just that it’s kind of boring. The dino-fighting is sporadic and typically involves Mills using his space gun like any other kind of gun. He shoots some dinosaurs. That’s the extent of the dino fighting, really: some shooting. And not fun, John Wick-style shooting that’s interestingly choreographed or lovingly designed; this is pretty staid, late 2000s or early 2010s, CGI-style shooting. Point, shoot, move on.
There are worse ways to spend your time. But there are definitely better ones.