An astronaut crash lands on a mysterious planet only to discover he's not alone. (from IMDB)
When I was a kid in the 80s, it wasn't hard to find old monster movies airing on TV on any given weekend afternoon. These uber-cheesy monster movies were widely considered to be "B-movies" because of their low budget and cheap special effects. Movies like The Land That Time Forgot (1974), One Million Years B.C. (1966) and At the Earth's Core (1976) were corny sci-fi guilty pleasures of many viewers of the day. Today, however, the term seems to encompass any movie that just doesn't make the grade, so to speak, but there is still an odd kind of affection that accompanies the term. 65, while not exactly made on a shoestring budget (after all, $45 million isn't anything to sneeze at), has a small and intimate feel to it, involving only two major characters and two other characters with more minor roles. I wouldn't say the film looks or feels cheap by any means, but, especially with its brisk runtime of an hour and a half (including credits) and basic premise, the movie feels a lot smaller.
65 sees an astronaut named Mills transporting a cryogenically frozen crew across the galaxy as part of a 2-year trek. Not many details are given about their destination or who these crew members are, but it ends up not being vital to the story. Mills leaves behind a wife and 12-year-old daughter, the latter of which is fighting a potentially terminal illness. It's his hope that his salary for this job will earn enough to help his daughter get the treatment she needs. At some point during the trek through the stars, however, his ship is hit by meteors and he's forced to crash-land on an unexplored planet. Unbeknownst to him, it's Earth... 65 million years ago.
Mills nearly gives up on life pretty quickly when he thinks he's the only survivor of the crash, but he soon discovers that a young girl named Koa - about the same age as his daughter - also survived. With his paternal instincts kicking in, he decides to try to escape the planet with Koa, but to do that he must get to a section of their ship that broke off and landed on a mountain top. Now the pair has to survive the dangers of prehistoric Earth in order to make it back home.
Directors Scott Beck and Bryan Woods are probably best known for co-writing the 2018 horror hit A Quiet Place, but they admit that with 65, the friends-since-childhood had always wanted to make a sci-fi movie involving dinosaurs. 65 definitely scratches a very specific kind of itch. Where The Lost World: Jurassic Park, the first sequel to Steven Spielberg's 1993 blockbuster, felt largely like the result of a kid playing with dinosaur toys and G.I. Joe figures together, 65 doesn't feel too far from that sort of cinematic DNA. Beck and Woods approach the movie seriously, which adds tension to its horror elements, but they're also not afraid to lighten the mood to focus on the father/daughter relationship of Mills and Koa. The movie really has heart, and one of my favorite scenes is when we're seeing the pair bond over getting water from a stream and Koa discovering a flower. But just like where a child playing with their toys might allow for his characters to survive some of the craziest of circumstances - because it's fun and because, well, he can - Mills and Koa often find themselves in some of the most dire of circumstances, and always make it out. One can easily nitpick "Well, what about that injury they got?" or "Yeah, there's no way they could outrun that thing," but let's be honest - the movie should be about 15 minutes long if we're going for realism. Instead, what we have here is a well-acted, enjoyable creature feature that doesn't take itself too seriously, but offers suspense and thrills for those not usually keen on full-blown horror films.
With that said, 65 seems to be a pretty polarizing affair with audiences. I've yet to hear any rave reviews for it, but it seems more have found it to be just "okay" than anything more negative. Perhaps the scale of the movie is a bit too small, being that it merely focuses on 2 people. Or perhaps the stakes are too high for two people to continually survive one serious threat after another. But the special effects are quite good for a movie of this scale, the production and set quality are really solid, and even the score from Chris Bacon works well enough (But maybe a more memorable score would have elevated the movie to something greater?). Adam Driver, who is probably most widely known for his role as villain Kylo Ren in the Disney-produced Star Wars sequel trilogy, is good as the lead role here, but maybe he just lacks the "it" factor to carry a near solo movie on his own. I liked him as Mills, but he doesn't exactly bear the charisma or charm of someone like a Harrison Ford, Chris Pratt, or Robert Downey Jr. Ariana Greenblatt is sweet and strong as the child Koa, who accompanies Mills on the journey, but Beck and Woods give the pair a language barrier to add some extra tension and difficulty to the mix. I thought this worked quite well, but they are a bit inconsistent with what Koa can understand from Mills at any given moment in the story. Still, the two have good chemistry together, and the filmmakers do a decent job giving the weight of their relationship a little added depth for a movie that you probably wouldn't expect to have. The question remains then: is all of this enough for audiences? If its box office performance and iTunes viewer rating are any indication, I guess it isn't.
The directors have said that, like with A Quiet Place, they wanted to take a less-is-more approach to how they presented and showed the dinosaurs in the movie. This, too, gives a callback to the old days of monster movies where we don't see the creatures as often as we might expect to (even like with Jaws or The Thing from Another World). From one of the deleted scenes included with this home release, it's evident that the guys were intending to go a little more gruesome at times, in particular when we see another human - who's covered in blood and missing a hand - get tossed by a dinosaur who appears to be in the middle of feasting on it. In the cut scene, Mills and Koa seek shelter inside the rib cage of a decomposing dinosaur while the unseen monster apparently continues to feed on its human cuisine. It's a dark and more intense scene (that honestly probably would have resonated with fans of the horror genre), but I'm glad they didn't include it in the final cut of the movie. Other scenes have Mills and Koa reacting to "bumps in the night" or predators hiding in shadow, and it makes for some decent jump-scare moments.
The content for 65 is PG-13 mainly for the violence and occasional terror. Mills experiences some injuries along the way, with the worst being shrapnel embedded in his abdomen after the ship crashes. We see the piece of metal sticking out of his side, and he carefully removes it with blood oozing out. He then freezes the wound to seal it up. Later, he pauses while traveling to lift up his shirt and examine the wound and we see it has bubbled up a bit and could be infected. Other gross-out moments include a large prehistoric bug crawling into a sleeping person's mouth, causing their mouth to foam, and then it bursting upon extraction and the victim spitting up a lot of fluid. Characters also sustain scrapes and cuts along the way, so we see bloody marks on their faces and arms throughout the movie. Profanity is very infrequent, with Mills using "d*mn" once and the "S" word about 5 times, while Koa imitates his use of the word twice (mostly for comedic effect). If any viewer is sensitive to jump scares and creepy creatures lurking in the dark or attacking at any moment, 65 definitely isn't for you. But for those who regularly tune into entries in the horror genre, 65 would probably be considered extremely light viewing.
While not the best sci-fi, action, or even dinosaur movie you could see, 65 is still a fairly decent movie for what it's trying to accomplish. Directors Beck and Woods have no qualms about making a dinosaur movie with thrills and scares, no matter how unrealistic it might seem to some viewers. With that in mind, if you don't mind checking reality at the door, 65 is a fun 90 minutes to spend with Adam Driver and Ariana Greenblatt as they try to escape from a prehistoric Earth and all the dangers it has to offer.- John DiBiase (reviewed: 5/31/23)
Deleted Scenes (8:21) - There are 5 deleted scenes with a Play All option...
Set in Stone: Filmmakers (4:21) - Here, directors/writers Scott Beck and Bryan Woods talk about their longtime friendship and how they always wanted to make a dinosaur movie together. They talk a bit about how the goal of the movie was to make "pure cinema" and how they wanted to approach the dinosaurs by showing "less is more."
Future of Yesterday: Creating the World of 65 (4:57) is a featurette that talks about merging horror and sci-fi together. The directors liken the approach to the movie as "Mills crash lands from one movie into a better movie." This segment largely focuses on the set design and aesthetic of the movie, and how they wanted to try new things with the sci-fi angle while still transporting us back in time.
Primordial Planet (2:31) is a fake documentary about Earth being a primordial planet, using imagery from the movie to flesh out this 2-minute documentary.
Final Showdown: Concepts to Screen (10:14) - With no intro or commentary, we are presented with a side-by-side comparison of the entire 10-minute climax of the movie and the original storyboard sketches. At times, when no storyboards are available, the finished film goes full screen, but it otherwise jumps back to split-screen to show how the original vision for a moment compares with its finished version. (Includes 4 "S" words from Mills from the final movie.)- John DiBiase (reviewed: 5/31/23)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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