From tired B-listers to the biggest names in the business, half of Hollywood’s leading men want to play characters like Geralt of Rivia, Joel, or Din Djarin these days. The formula of The Lone Wolf and The Cub has stood the test of time and has become a vehicle for testing the mettle of male actors. Now it’s Adam Driver’s turn.
In the movie 65, Driver plays Mills, an interstellar pilot in an implied-capitalist US-like nightmare. Mills has to abandon his wife and sick daughter to go on a two-year-long mission to afford healthcare for his daughter. This mission takes him on an exploratory journey that is interrupted by an uncharted asteroid belt. Mills’ ship crashes on a 65-million-year younger version of Earth, a dinosaur world with no humans yet. With the entire crew dead except for Driver’s character, he has little reason to fight or ask for an evac. Instead of an SOS message, he informs the unnamed institution/company that sent them there that there is no sense in rescuing them. He’s prepared to shoot himself with a rifle straight from Mass Effect or Halo when he receives a distress signal from the only other surviving member of the expedition, a 10-year-old girl named Koa (Ariana Greenblatt). Everything is ready for his Lone Wolf story to unfold.
65 is saturated with everything you’d expect from a sci-fi horror film like this – T-Rex silhouettes lit up by the storm, Mills’ retro-designed gadgets, Predator- and The Descent-like set pieces. Sam Raimi’s light touch is felt throughout the film. His brand of jumpscare and specific aesthetics of gore (boiled dinosaur, oozing wounds) add spice to an otherwise generic setting. All it takes for this formula to work is a sincere understanding of the trope, a competent lead, and a charismatic child actor. All three are used to their full potential. There aren’t many words spoken in this film, but they are used with utmost efficiency. The play around the language barriers between Mills and Koa is a nice touch.
While Driver’s and Greenblatt’s performances are commendable, the script lacks the sort of commentary on its universe and material conditions of its character that you would see in Alien or even Pandemonium. It never addresses why Mills has to take a job like this, why in an interstellar future/past they don’t have cures or even accessible healthcare for whatever disease his daughter was suffering from, or why it upholds the patriarchal place of the man as a breadwinner who needs to sacrifice so much for the sake of his family. On the other hand, it would be hard to expect anything less than a terminal stage of the American strand of Capitalist Realism from Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, the creators of the cold turd that was The Quiet Place.
Films like 65 have been a dying breed for more than a decade. They’re almost extinct from the mainstream big-screen movie-going experience. The rest migrated to streaming and VOD. Coming back to the lack of setup for a franchise, it’s a cherry on top. The finality of the story allows you to enjoy or dislike the film as is, without reservations for future continuations, spin-offs, or other such nonsense. This is the movie-going experience that I’ve been missing for years, and the existence of 65 should give hope to sci-fi horror fans who would love to almost drop their popcorn from a jumping straight at the screen raptor standalone, self-sufficient, mid-budget film.