65 - Film Review | TheXboxHub

65 – Film Review | TheXboxHub

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65 film review

In our view, dinosaurs are never dull. They can be tear-jerking (Land Before Time), they can be thrilling (Jurassic Park), and they can be horrifying (Dino Crisis), but we’re stumped if we can recall a dinosaur property that made them dull. Call us big kids, but dinosaurs improve everything they’re in. They’re too cool not to. 

That was our opinion before we came to 65, a sci-fi adventure through the dinosaur-filled swamps of 65 million years BC. Because that opinion has now irrevocably changed. 65 is a Bore-osaurus Rex. Sweet John Hammond: we could barely keep our eyes open. 

65 stars Adam Driver, who manages to dispel another opinion that we had: that Kylo Ren was incapable of putting in a bad performance. From Marriage Story through to Girls and more, he’s often in bad stuff, but always seems to lift them through his sheer gangly, nasal presence. Here, shoved into a spacesuit and given the task of being an action hero, he can’t bear the burden. For a large proportion of the movie, he’s the only one on screen, and he tries manfully before giving up. It’s that rare beast: an Adam Driver performance that’s phoned in. 

He plays Mills, a space-trucker who is transporting a cargo of cryogenically frozen settlers. He’s the only one awake when the ship collides with an asteroid belt, and soon he and the ship are spiraling down towards a planet. It’s not a twist to know that this planet is Earth, 65 million years before we started twerking all over it, and Adam Driver is a rather human-looking alien from a different civilisation entirely. It’s a logical leap, but you soon get over it. 

The asteroids have done a number on the ship and its sleeping crew, killing (almost) everyone and tearing the structure in half. The backside of the ship is halfway up a mountain, some miles away from Mills, and – as luck would have it – the only working escape pod is in that half. So, off he trudges, unaware of what might live on the planet, and he’s about to get several dinosaur-shaped surprises. There’s another more human-sized surprise, too, as he comes across a survivor, Koa (Ariana Greenblatt). She becomes a burden and then a companion, before saving his ass multiple times. It’s the old buddy movie trope of the uneasy friendship that grows and flourishes.

Writing it now, it sounds rather good. Adam Driver, getting his Schwarzenegger on, trudging through a forest, chased by a Predator switched with velociraptors. We can get behind that – it’s the reason we wanted to watch 65 in the first place. But through some strange alchemy, the results are less lukewarm than they are cold-blooded.

Part of the problem is gloominess, in both senses of the word. 65 is both dark and dour. It takes place largely over the space of one night, so the darkness makes sense, but it gives 65 a pass to show very little. The film is claustrophobic where it could have been expansive, and offers fleeting glances of dinosaurs and the world, when it could have invoked wonder. The gloom also gives the film a curiously low-budget feel, as its only Mills’ gizmos and the interior of the ship(s) that really point to blockbuster budgets. 

The dourness comes from Mills. He has a pitch-dark backstory that took some chutzpah from the writers to include, but also doesn’t leave much room for levity. Mills is rightly a downbeat chap, based on what’s happened to him, but he’s also the only chap onscreen for long periods. Being in his presence can be exhausting. 

Koa should be a foil to the drab Mills, and in a sense she is. She warms his heart, as you would expect, and reminds him of his daughter in a clearly emotionally manipulative manner. But she also talks in a completely different language to Mills, so they can barely communicate, and we can’t comprehend what she is saying. That’s a problem when we’re emotionally starved by Mills. Koa could have offered some banter and sparked off the sandpapery pilot, but mostly they’re just confused by each other. 

Dinosaurs will save the day, won’t they? Surely it must be so. Well, they would if 65 knew what to do with them, and nope, it does not. 

One of the joys of dinosaurs is that we don’t really know what they look like and how they behave. Jurassic Park had a whale of a time with that knowledge gap. Perhaps they have feathers. Perhaps they can camouflage. You can create your own rules for dinosaurs.

65 makes the dinosaurs largely interchangeable with each other. There are small carnivores, medium-sized carnivores, and large carnivores. Dinosaurs that look like compys, velociraptors and tyrannosaurus rexes, all in a wash of greys and browns. They’re the same body type, enlarged with a Paintshop stretching tool. The one positive is in the animation: they’re all quite low to the ground, moving like dogs rather than the bird-like movements of the Jurassic Park series. But that’s it: they’re homogenous and less than dazzling. 

And then 65 neglects to use them. Taking a page out of Jaws’ book, 65 is reluctant to introduce them, and when it does, it does so sparingly. But we’d argue that Jaws could take the approach because it wasn’t set on a planet full of sharks, and 65 is set on a planet full of dinosaurs. It needed to be liberal in its sprinkling of them to sell the unique setup, to give the people what they want. Sure, you can lead up to the dinosaurs slowly, but once the dinos are out of the cage, you have to let them swarm the film.

Dinosaur films can never be dull. They’re like a seal of approval for any movie (at least they are if you’re a grown child like us). But for that statement to be true, you need to actually see the dinosaurs, and they need to appear more than a few times in the movie. 65 makes the mistake of hiding its dinosaurs away, and the glum characters who take their place are far from a replacement. 

Well done 65: you made dinosaurs boring. We felt like 65 million years had passed while watching you.

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