Tales that bridge the many-million-years time span between when dinosaurs roamed the Earth and when human technology became advanced enough to allow for exploration beyond the boundaries of the planet to occur have been staples of the science fiction genre for decades. Think of the adventure novels by the likes of Jules Verne (Journey to the Center of the Earth) and Edgar Rice Burroughs (The Land That Time Forgot), in which intrepid explorers discover prehistoric worlds buried deep within our own, the Godzilla series, in which scientists use contemporary technology to combat the titular monster and his various rivals, or even Jurassic Park, in which modern tech is used to resurrect the long-extinct species. 65, the sci-fi thriller written and directed by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods (the writers of A Quiet Place) gives the appearance of a future world, where interplanetary travel is commonplace, but it’s actually set on another planet many millions of years in the past. Mills (Adam Driver) is a pilot coaxed by his wife Ayla (Nika King) into taking on a two-year expedition to help pay for treatment for their daughter Nevine’s (Chloe Coleman) illness. But a while into his journey, his ship crashes. It’s where it crashes that provides 65 with its promisingly intriguing premise: Earth, during the Cretaceous period, 65 million years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the planet.
Unfortunately, while Adam Driver fighting dinosaurs sounds like an impossible-to-screw-up slam dunk, it’s remarkably…boring. 65 takes itself much too seriously, its tone becoming even harder to swallow after the kind of laughable, kind of great ticking time bomb that propels the story forward reveals itself. That might not have been a bad thing, had the emotional points of the story rang truer. Few aspects of them genuinely resonate; we find out later in the film through a montage of video messages sent to Mills by Nevina that her condition gradually worsened until she finally passed away before he could get back to her. Mills might not have been able to help Nevina, but he receives a second chance through Koa (Ariana Greenblatt), a young girl about Nevina’s age who is the lone passenger who survived the ship crash. While the loss of Nevina more strongly translates as engineered to wring tears from the audience, Driver and Greenblatt turn in performances that are significantly better than the material they’re working with. The fact that Koa doesn’t speak Mills’ language and they have to figure out a way to communicate through sign language throws an intriguing wrench in their relationship, but the script fails to properly build up said relationship to a satisfying emotional catharsis, instead centering it around Mills’ deceit (to convince her to come with him to a place where they can get off-planet, he lies and tells her that her family is waiting there) with some humorless pratfalls sprinkled in here and there.
The action scenes, meanwhile, are few and far between and the dim ones we get aren’t visually interesting or exciting. Perhaps the most intriguing part of the film is the footage that plays over the start of the end credits, a time lapse portraying the evolution of Earth over the next many million years. There’s something to be said for 65’s tight 93 minute runtime, but it somehow fails to make use of that too, delivering a poorly-paced film that is too solemn to be amusing, yet not seriously enough to wholly buy in to. That’s especially surprising considering how effective Beck and Woods’ work was on A Quiet Place, turning in a tight product that was both emotionally satisfying and unbearably tense. The influences on 65 are clear, but the film never lives up to them.
65 is now playing in theaters. Runtime: 93 minutes. Rated PG-13.