Adam Driver vs. dinosaurs isn’t quite the match-up we expected
Adam Driver might just be one of the most versatile actors working today. He’s certainly one of the most exciting. There’s little he can’t do and, it turns out, little he won’t do. Essaying roles as diverse as his breakout role in Girls a decade ago as an egocentric, unambitious hipster to the ill-fated, hot-tempered grandson of Darth Vader in the recently concluded Star Wars sequel trilogy to the Italian-accented, short-lived heir to the Gucci luxury goods fortune in House of Gucci, Driver is never less than persuasive or believable, committing himself with an intensity, forcefulness, and dedication rare among his contemporaries. What Driver can’t do, however, is save his latest starring effort, 65, a high-concept sci-fi/adventure film that pits Driver’s singularly named space pilot, Mills, against a limited variety of Cretaceous-era dinosaurs.
The premise literally deposits Mills, piloting a spacecraft on a two-year space mission to deliver human cargo to an unspecified destination, and Koa (Ariana Greenblatt), a preteen orphan on a prehistoric Earth when, as the saying goes (and went), “Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth.” Mills and the newly awakened Koa, however, have a literal communication problem. Koa and Mills might be from the same world, but they speak different languages. And with the equivalent of a universal translator conveniently broken, they have to learn to “talk” to each other. With little hope of rescue and staying in the remains of the ship an increasingly unlikely option, Mills decides he and Koa must venture across a swampy jungle, and up a nearby mountain to find the still extant, hopefully undamaged escape shuttle.
As it stands (and sits), 65 unfolds as a basic, sometimes too basic, survival tale, with the overmatched protagonists forced into typical life-or-death situations, most, if not all, involving the ravenous wildlife eager to make a quick meal or snack out of Mills and Koa before they reach their final destination. Along the way, Mills and Koa haltingly work out the rudiments of communication while Mills, suffering from a bad guilt trip involving the sick daughter, Nevine (Chloe Coleman), he left back home, tries to keep vital information from Koa about her still missing parents. That, in a totally rudimentary way, sets up a not unexpected revelation meant to test the fragile bonds between Mills and Koa.
Co-writers and co-directors Scott Beck and Bryan Woods (the upcoming Boogeyman, Haunt, A Quiet Place) take few risks, imaginative or otherwise, with the material, instead letting the exigencies inherent in the premise play out in predictable fashion. Aside from Mills and Koa’s inability to communicate clearly or fully, there’s little else that could be called original or new. All of the usual — and, after two Jurassic Park-related trilogies, far too familiar — dinosaurs appear in 65, from snarling, roaring T-Rexes to hyper-intelligent, human-sized raptors and everything in between, delivering a presumably unintended sense of deja vu over the course of 65’s compact running time (92 total minutes, including credits).
To be fair, Beck and Woods do introduce one intriguing element early on, the U.S.-style healthcare present on Mills’s world that doesn’t cover the costs of medical treatment for Mills’s daughter. Beck and Woods might have thought it through, using this element as spur Mills to take the two-year gig and later, form a surrogate father-daughter relationship with the newly orphaned Koa, but it also suggests that corporate capitalism as we’ve experienced over the last century functions as an immutable constant across time and across worlds. Intentionally or not, it’s a bleak, even depressing idea to contemplate for more than a minute or two, far scarier than a rampaging, carnivorous dinosaur attempting to make you its next snack or meal.
65 is available to rent or purchase via Amazon “Primal” Video.
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