Adam Driver has one of the most varied, eclectic careers in Hollywood. He has fronted one of the biggest franchises in cinema history in Star Wars, has been Oscar-nominated twice and has worked with a wide range of the best directors out there, including but not limited to Martin Scorsese, Noah Baumbach and Steven Spielberg.
It seems somewhat incredible that Driver’s newest film is a rather modest sci-fi adventure, 65. Driver stars as a pilot called Mills, who is stranded on Earth after an asteroid hit his spacecraft. Mills teams up with the only other survivor, a young girl called Koa, and together they try to get to an escape pod.
When the trailers dropped, it seemed that Mills had somehow travelled back in time to an Earth 65 million years ago. This is confirmed to be wrong from the very first frame as the film begins on an Earth-like planet. Mills is revealed to have a wife and daughter, who is very sick and Mills is going on a two-year mission to afford her treatment.
The start of 65 is very rushed, presumably because directors Scott Beck and Bryan Woods want to get to the good parts; Driver facing off against prehistoric lizards. That’s when 65 is at its strongest; you don’t need a high concept for your film, you just need a cool one, and it doesn’t get much cooler than this.
Although the budget limitations of 65 are glaringly obvious, the dinosaurs are brought to life well. Don’t expect to see your favourite dinosaurs like the triceratops and velociraptors. This isn’t Jurassic Park. There is no Spielbergian sense of wonder to these creatures. The visual effects budget has clearly gone to the detailed look of the dinosaurs, and it pays off. If you were disappointed by Jurassic World: Dominion, perhaps 65 is the soothing salve you need.
The biggest weakness of 65 is the script. Written by Beck and Woods, the dynamic duo behind John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place. The script wastes far too much time on elements that are never developed further. 65 is one or two rounds of edits away from a decent, strong script.
At least Beck and Woods are smart enough to know that when your script lacks nuance, you get a good enough actor to carry your film. Driver is a charismatic lead, and it’s fun to see him let loose with an old-fashioned sci-fi actioner. 65 is also surprisingly funny, even if the balance of thrills and humour is often a little off.
Young Ariana Greenblatt is impressive as Koa, but ultimately, it’s all about Driver’s performance. The emotional beats don’t always land, and 65 seems to run more on its core premise than any real story behind the plot, but this is still first-grade entertainment.
Is 65 good? Debatable. Is 65 enjoyable? Absolutely. We seem to be in an era where every film has to be part of something bigger (cough, Marvel, cough) or a five-star masterpiece. The middle-budget film has disappeared, but 65 is an ambitious, entertaining example of why it should be returned.
65 is in cinemas now.