If you approach 65 from the matter of the emotionality it tries to build, the picture (somewhat) becomes clearer. We first meet a pilot named Mills (Adam Driver), who lives on an advanced planet called Solaris with his daughter Nevine (Chloe Coleman) and wife. Unfortunately, Nevine is extremely sick, so to pay for treatment, Mills has to take a two-year mission to afford treatments. The situation sucks, but understandable (considering the state of health care in the current world).
While on his travels, an asteroid field cuts through the ship, and it crash-lands on an unmarked planet – unbeknownst to the now-dead passengers who were in cryosleep. When Mills comes to, he explores the surrounding area and finds a massive animal print and some roars in the background. If it hasn’t hit you, what 65 means, we have somehow transferred back 65 million years in the past. This isn’t Jurassic Park, where there are (sort of) safeguards to try to contain these monstrous beasts – this is their playground. But Mills has a lot of futuristic tech on his side, and while writers/director Scott Beck and Bryan Woods try to build up the danger factor, it always seems he will come out of it. If you have a souped-up intergalactic laser gun, you should be ok, right?
65 provides a simple mission to accomplish. Mills has to reach an escape beacon on top of a mountain. Thankfully, he’s not alone as he discovers Koa (Arianna Greenblatt), a lone survivor of a similar age to his daughter. They share a language barrier which serves as a story theme to bring the characters closer together as they try to survive. This primarily works because of the performances of Driver and Greenblatt.
However, within the greater narrative context, it falters – mainly due to a critical story realization that gets lost because Koa doesn’t understand Mills. Given Beck and Woods’ work on A Quiet Place, they know how to build compelling set pieces concerning tension. That’s a little different when you’re dealing with dinosaurs. When you have raptors, there are many of them. They are loud and rarely sneak up on you. Much of 65 has our main characters running or trying to fight off the next wave of danger – done more constructively in other prehistoric-based films before it.
Once you get past the repetitiveness of the chase and the near misses Koa endures, there’s a pseudo surrogate father-daughter story between the two characters. Through flashbacks, we get slight nods to how much Mills’ daughter meant to him. Not so much for Koa, which hurts her insistence to get back to family (whatever that means for her). It will leave you wanting to learn more about her to get to the catharsis the film pushes you to.
Come hell or high water; Mills endures the unfathomable to ensure she’s safe. The stakes are much lower because they are the only two characters in the film. 65 toes the line between building this connection and danger – which might feel unbalanced given it is a dinosaur film. A myriad of species are seen, but they either don’t get enough time or are introduced in ways audiences would identify.
If there’s a strength to 65, it’s that an ambitious film like this can exist containing all of these ideas. Unfortunately, the film operates at a pace that both manages to slog down and speed past how interesting something like this could be.