Watching “65” is like sitting down to a five-course meal only to discover each course is a helping of mashed potatoes. There’s nothing wrong with mashed potatoes except that after a few courses, it all seems the same no matter how well the meal has been cooked.
That’s the cinematic soup directors/writers Scott Beck and Bryan Woods find themselves in with this space travel film set 65 million years in the past. The limited cast of two major players and a script that allows for little flexibility leaves the production as just being bland.
It would have been worse if Adam Driver hadn’t turned in his customary intense performance. He’s one of the few actors who can take a stick and a yucky bug and make it seem like the end of the world.
Mills (Driver) has agreed to a two-year deep space mission. He only agreed to be that long away from his daughter because they need his triple income to pay for some life-saving medical assistance for the young girl.
Somewhere past the midpoint of the mission, a rogue asteroid belt gets in his way and knocks his spaceship off course to an uncharted planet. In a galaxy far, far away Mills has discovered the prehistoric Earth.
Mills and a nine-year-old girl, Koa (Ariana Greenblatt), are the only survivors. The pair must make a 15-kilometer walk through a land of killer creatures to recover the escape pod. The trek is made even more difficult by the fact they don’t speak the same language.
Here’s where the big problem arises. Because there are only two people, the possibilities are extremely limited. They both can die (not the best way to quickly end an already short film). One can survive (but either way would be devastating to the other). Or, they both survive leaving the film with a very predictable conclusion.
This leaves Driver and Greenblatt to give the very predictable tale any jolts of energy possible. That often means Mills falling from a tree, into quicksand, down a hole or suffering other calamities that would have ended the life of a normal man.
There’s only so much danger Koa can be put in as putting children in deadly situations so often comes across as trying to capitalize on their pain. A little danger works and the two directors found that level.
Having the pair not speak the same language sets up a little tension but Koa’s grasp of English seems to come far too quickly. She’s also a little too brave for a youngster who would be put in such a situation.
But, all Beck and Woods can do is move the pair forward. They add another level of danger with a catastrophic event that makes Mills look like the unluckiest person in the galaxy. It ends up being just another helping of mashed potatoes.
Part of the problem is that the story is so thin that many of the elements begin to take on the characteristics of other movies. Beck and Woods were the team behind “A Quiet Place” and their continuation of the hush theme seems too familiar especially since that was done so much better in that film.
“65” might not have looked so thin had it not come out in the wake of the NBC drama “La Brea.” That tale of a group of people who fall through a sinkhole and end up in the distant, distant past at least tries to create some variations even if the ideas don’t quite work. Also, there are more characters to set up a broader range of story scenarios.
The overall look of the film is solid and the special effects strong enough that instead of trying to hide all of the creatures in the dark, they are clearly shown. What dinosaur they are is fun enough to help pass the time between watching Mills and Koa walk, run and fall.
If you are OK with a production that strives and hits the mediocre mark, then take a look at “65.” Just don’t expect any big surprises.
Cast: Adam Driver, Ariana Greenblatt, Chloe Coleman.
Directors: Scott Beck, Bryan Woods
Rated: PG-13 for violence, peril, bloody images
Running time: 93 minutes.