Written and directed by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, 65 – the title staggers into a sub-title that turns out to be an introductory caption and then fills the screen like a pitch document – is a throwback to the likes of gosh-wow-dinos-on-another-planet-and-maybe-it’s-earth junkers of yore … King Dinosaur, Valley of the Dragons, Planet of the Dinosaurs. But with post-Jurassic Park CG effects. It’s also a bonding-in-the-wilderness picture, like a generational take on Enemy Mine – though the thing I was most reminded of was Apocalypto, which spent its running time depicting a hellscape civilisation in terms that meant the arrival of genocidal European colonisers seemed like a happy ending … here, we’re on the run from reptiles out to eat us, plus all manner of other murderous flora and fauna (even rasperries are killers), and that onrushing meteor in the sky is coming to wipe the bastards out en masse. The gimmick is that the two humans need to get off the rock before the extinction event happens.
It’s 65 million years ago, and the universe already has a spacefaring civilisation – though Beck and Woods have precious little interest in depicting a non-Earth human culture. The hook is that Mills (Adam Driver) – representative of a race who will pass from the universe but leave a character name to be used in the Taken franchise – is a space pilot who needs to take a two-year mission away from his wife and daughter (Chloe Coleman) because the planet Somaris has America’s healthcare system. That doesn’t pan out happily, and Mills’ ship gets sideswiped by offcuts from the dino-busting meteor. Crashing in a primal swamp, Mills thinks he’s sole survivor until he finds out that nine-year-old Koa (Ariana Greenblatt) is in a functioning cryopod nearby. He has to get her to cross fifteen kilometers – Somaris use the metric system, rather than calculate distances in znorglefatts like proper aliens – and hike up a mountain to the escape ship. And dinosaurs are out to stop them. They have zap guns and marble bombs and a few other SF gadgets, but the point is to improvise with sticks and stones and muscle to show human gumption rather than rely on technical superiority.
It’s never easy to depict a human culture that has no connection with Earth – I keep getting distracted by the fact that seatbelts look like seatbelts of Earth manufacture and manners and mores are inescapably rooted in whatever passes for human interaction in a Hollywood development meeting. A father who’s lost a daughter and a little girl whose parents just died bond, bicker, bond and are there for each other – though they don’t speak the same language (Koa’s people probably do measure things in znorglefatts) and that makes all their scenes feel flat. Driver, a powerhouse presence, just seems scruffy and glum here. For all its dino-reveals – a snarling face lit by lightning, an oversized footprint, nasty little raptors attacking swiftly, toothy pteros – and intense getting-stuck-up-a-tree or getting-out-of-a-cave suspense sequences, 65 is a little light on the sort of thrill-ride nonsense which make, say, Pitch Black a B picture gem. Best bit involves a tongue-nipping bug though I liked the use of a hand-held holo-projector life-locator to depict one man-vs-monster fight.
After Cocaine Bear, it’s the second Irish waterfall movie of the year (though it’s been in hibernation for a while and given the sort of theatrical release which ensures a lower profile than that bloody Winnie the Pooh movie).