65 is a sci-fi film which explores the theme of a father’s love for his daughter, and the pathos when he can no longer protect her. It takes place in the distant past, millions of years ago. Yet this particular civilization has technology far beyond what we have now. For one thing, they have a way of traveling the solar system that we can only imagine in, well, movies. 65 provides an imaginative conception of what could be out there in the solar system, and what was millions of years ago. In sum, it is a decent film to escape reality for an hour and a half.
The protagonist Mills’ young daughter is sick, and to raise the funds to get her the proper treatment, he must go on a two year exploratory voyage piloting a spaceship. The opening scene is on a beach on planet Somaris where Mills, his wife, and their daughter spend some family time, and their daughter gives a sad little cough, foreshadowing the gravity of her illness.
Ultimately, Mills’ daughter succumbs to her unnamed illness when he is about halfway through with his journey. He has an opportunity, however, to transfer his paternal feelings to his new plucky companion on the strange planet where he has crashed. Surveying his surroundings, Mills says ominously:
“There’s something alien out there.”
Eventually we learn that this alien planet is Earth, 65 million years ago. Having fortuitously read nothing about the film prior to going to the theater, for me this plot twist was an utter surprise. The trailer coyly gives the impression they will visit an alien planet. The longer trailer gives away the game, promising a visit to “prehistoric Earth.” In my view that is better left to the viewer’s surprise as an interesting plot twist.
The spaceship’s cargo, cryogenically frozen passengers, are scattered on the strange planet and dead, except for one nine-year-old girl, Koa (Ariana Greenblatt). Unfortunately, Koa speaks a different language and Mills does not have access to Google Translate. Quite touchingly, he slowly teaches her certain key words, such as “move” and “family.”
Mills withholds his private tragedy as he tenderly teaches Koa his language and how to survive. The setting, Planet Earth 65 million years ago (hence the title), is impressively conceptualized in 65.
The plot of the film is fairly minimal and straightforward–they’re trying to get off Planet Earth and back to their own home planet. They just need the escape vehicle, which has ended up on the top of a mountain, according to Mills’ handy GPS like device. Adam Driver’s Mills is a stoical hero, and Ariana Greenblatt’s Kao is as sweet and vulnerable as you might imagine.
It is relevant that their crash is caused by little asteroids–”undocumented asteroids,” as Commander Mills radios in. Later we learn, by Mills’ souped-up smart phone type gadget, that this is part of the asteroid problem which will ultimately cause the extinction of the dinosaurs. And it’s coming for the Earth soon.
Mills contemplates suicide by putting his cool futuristic gun to his head (although it’s set in the distant past), which makes more sense when we learn that his daughter has finally succumbed to her unnamed illness. Finding Koa gives him a reason to carry on. Although you would think his wife would also provide that motivation, there aren’t any references or memories flash-backs to his wife, just his daughter. In fact, the sentimental flashbacks, though admittedly touching, are laid on maybe too thick by one scene, at which point I said audibly, “Again?” It made me seem callous, but I was expressing what everyone else was thinking.
As Mills and Koa make their journey towards the mountain and the escape vessel, they are attacked by dinosaurs so many times that it frankly becomes tedious. When their escape vehicle is unfortunately knocked off balance, it is in a way fortunate that a Tyrannosaurus Rex decides that he wants to try to eat the spaceship. Despite almost eating Mills, the T-Rex ultimately knocks the spaceship kind of right side up, so that they are able to finally depart Planet Earth before the asteroid shower really kicks up.
In the Guardian, the film was said to miss the mark due to its “frantic pace,” and its failure to have a “more delicately effective buildup.” That’s a fair criticism. The film did indeed feel flat insofar as it was a constant state of action and not much of an arc to the narrative. Some critics complained about the verisimilitude of the characters speaking modern English when after all it the characters originate from a distant planet 65 million years ago. To which I say, should they have invented a language for this film and have us read subtitles for an hour and a half?
Otherwise, the critics are preoccupied with what the film should have been. It’s this genre, and therefore it needs that. It’s not quite an action film or a sci-fi film, but so what? As a moviegoer, I don’t mind if 65 does not adhere to the conventions of its particular genre. Anyway, look at the other stuff in the theater: thrillers and mindless Marvel franchise films. Low-IQ entertainment. 65 is at least better than that.
There was too much action to the point where I became desensitized to the dinosaur attacks fairly quickly. Still, the plot was imaginative and clever. Mills refers to our planet, ironically, as an “uncharted celestial body,” which is kind of true when you think about what a different planet it was 65 million years ago. The production quality of 65 is such that they deliver on the promise to portray that prehistoric world vividly.
Adam Driver was not an obvious fit for this role. He is not exactly known for action flics. Yet he ultimately succeeds as an actor by portraying a simmering intensity and strong, silent type persona. Finally, Driver’s steady calm and Greenblatt’s spryness are a pleasing on screen dynamic.
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