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We should all take a moment to appreciate that, in 2023, a movie about a bear hopped up on cocaine took social media by storm, a bonkers masterpiece about the multiverse won best picture, and we got a movie about Adam Driver fighting dinosaurs. Who says cinema is dead?
“65” centers on a space pilot named Mills (Driver), who hails from the distant planet Somaris. On the way home from an exploratory mission, his ship is bombarded by asteroids and crash lands on Earth … 65 million years ago. With the only other survivor, Koa (Arianna Greenblatt), Mills journeys across treacherous prehistoric terrain to reach his escape pod, dodging carnivorous dinosaurs and racing against an impending meteor strike the whole way.
Critics have been less than kind to “65,” but the mere fact that we have a big-budget film about dinosaurs that’s not focused on Chris Pratt or weaponized locusts is a cause for celebration. “65” set out to “make dinosaurs scary again,” and while some might equate “over the top” with “cheesiness,” we’d rather honor a studio’s decision to greenlight an original science fiction movie featuring a slew of snarling dinosaurs. So, let’s sink our teeth into this modern creature feature and highlight the tastiest morsels.
A Rocky Crash Landing
“65” opens with a ship on autopilot flying through space, but the calm doesn’t last long. The vessel’s pilot, Mills, is rudely awakened from his interstellar slumber when his ship is torn to shreds by an unforeseen asteroid belt. Despite Mills’ best efforts, the craft crashes onto an unknown planet, losing all its cryo-sleeping passengers. Mills is appropriately rattled, trying to figure out where he is as the title card reveals he’s stranded on Cretaceous-era Earth.
The gag that kicks off the film — the first shot seems to show an asteroid heading towards Mills’ ship, only to reveal that it’s a pebble as it bounces off the hull — is a brief and fun misdirect. Once things get going, though, the entire sequence is dizzying and chaotic. It feels like you’re actually in the cockpit with Adam Driver. My only complaint is that I wish we learned more about the passengers who met their untimely demise; maybe we’ll get a director’s cut that’ll give them more depth.
Save The Baby Dinosaur
Shortly after Mills finds Koa alive in her cryo chamber, the pair begin their impossible trek to the only functioning escape vessel. Koa hears dinosaur cries nearby, and discovers a cute baby dinosaur trapped in a tar-like substance. Against Mills’ wishes, she begins freeing it. Mills reluctantly joins in, and together they get the baby to safety. There’s an adorable moment when Koa (and the audience) smile at this little creature, who just got a second chance — and then it’s snatched away and killed by four carnivorous Oviraptors.
This scene appears to be intentionally, albeit darkly, comedic. There’s just enough of a pause before the baby dinosaur is ripped to shreds; it’s a shocking moment that shows how dangerous prehistoric Earth is, but it also flips a seemingly tender moment on its head in the most hilarious way possible. Here, we learn that, in the world of “65,” no creature is safe — and we learn it the hard way.
Little Raptor, Big Jump Scare
After narrowly surviving a crash landing, Mills comes upon a cliff. Peering over the edge, he witnesses a Tyrannosaurus Rex and several other dinosaurs roaming the prehistoric landscape. Before Mills can react to these “alien” life forms, a baby raptor appears out of nowhere and tries its darndest to get some toothy facetime with him. A brief skirmish follows. Mills narrowly gets the upper hand and tosses the raptor to the ground, then finishes the job by bludgeoning it to death with the butt of his space gun.
If this were a “Jurassic” film, the moment that Mills first sees dinosaurs would be awe-inspiring, most likely a shot of Mills taking in these majestic monsters. In “65,” it’s one of the best jump scares in the entire movie. The raptor seems to emerge from thin air and puts up quite a fight before Mills overpowers it. We also catch a glimpse of Mills’ lack of concern. As soon as he’s free of those claws and teeth, he attacks. Mills will do whatever he needs to do to survive, even if it’s extremely unpleasant.
After “Jurassic World Dominion,” we know you may be concerned to see insects mentioned in the context of a new dinosaur movie. However, we promise that these two encounters are both gross and good, although they’ll likely get under many viewers’ skins.
First, as Mills and Koa push through woodsy terrain, a giant insect lands on Mills’ neck. Before we know if it’s friend or foe, he smashes it. When he lifts his hand, a splatter of goo is all that remains. He attempts to wipe the ooze off, only to have his hand stick to a tree. Koa chuckles as a disgusted Mills looks for a way to clean his hand. It’s a funny moment that ends before the humor becomes too broad.
Later, when the two humans have taken refuge in a cave, Mills finds Koa foaming at the mouth. He peers inside, and sees a prehistoric insect. Mills thinks fast and breaks off part of a nearby motion detector. We assume that he’s going to use the device as a makeshift set of tweezers, but instead he zaps the bug, causing it to explode. Koa barfs up the remains. It’s a genuinely grotesque sight to behold, and will make us think twice about camping in a cave any time soon. Yuck.
A Pitch Black Attack
After fleeing from the T-rex that cut their cave Airbnb stay short, Koa and Mills are trapped in the cave’s claustrophobic inner belly. They clear a small area to climb through, only for the foundation to crumble and separate them. Mills ends up alone in complete darkness, with only his shoulder flashlight and proximity meter to aid him. He hears something and fires up his device, and that’s when an oviraptor leaps at him from behind, hellbent on having an Adam Driver-flavored snack. He’s pulled in and out of the darkness before he reaches for his gun and blasts the beast to bits.
This battle is one of the film’s more visually inventive set pieces. It creates a great sense of dread with its claustrophobic environment, and tempers it with humanity’s natural fear of the dark. We get a hint of something breathing behind Mills, and the monster attacks not even a second later. It’s another solid jump scare, one that’s followed by a messy and panicked scuffle. We only see glimpses of the creature itself, but watching the fight play out on the proximity display adds a fun high-tech dimension to the proceedings. We’ve all seen monsters attack from the shadows; any new spin filmmakers can put on this trope is more than welcome.
Koa Can Defend Herself
After she’s separated from Mills, Koa finds a way out of the cave. Before she can rest, however, she comes eye-to-eye with a raptor. A chase ensues, and Koa climbs into a hollow tree trunk, luring the raptor in after her. She quickly crawls out, then stomps on both sides of the trunk to trap her assailant inside. Then, she takes all the detonators Mills gave her and tosses them down a hole, blowing the tree and the dinosaur to smithereens.
When there’s a child in an action movie, they usually need constant saving. There’s plenty of that in “65,” but this scene proves that Koa can also handle herself, too. She thinks fast and easily outsmarts an apex predator. My only critique is that maybe Koa shouldn’t have used the entire bag of bombs. After all, there’s a whole planet of things that want to kill her. Since this dips into horror film territory, we appreciate that Koa makes sure the “killer” is really, truly dead, but her strategy might’ve been a bit much.
Adam Driver Vs. A Pack Of Dinosaurs
Mills climbs an impossibly tall tree to try and reconfigure his tracking device. Once he’s up there, a scorpion-like critter crawls on his hand. He flings it off, but loses his balance and crashes to the ground, dislocating his shoulder. He tries to jam it back in while a group of nosey nothosaurs approach. Koa stomps on Mills’ arm to relocate his shoulder, and then he opens fire as Koa runs. She gets out of the woods (literally) and runs onto a nearby beach, only to find a slew of other dinosaurs flapping around. As if that’s not enough, a stray nothosaurus closes in and nearly nabs her neck before Mills and a space bullet save the day. Koa is then dragged off by another member of the pack, but Mills delivers one more blast and gets her out of harm’s way … for now.
This sequence is one of the tensest in the movie, with the ancient reptiles slowly stalking our heroes like a gang of scaly Michael Myers. We aren’t mad at the “Lethal Weapon” homage either, with Mills pulling a Riggs to get his shoulder back in line. While the sequence could have drawn out some of its beats a bit longer, it piles on the threats, resulting in plenty of excitement. The nothosaurus design is really well done, too. Anyone who’s read about komodo dragons knows better than to come face-to-face with this ancient reptile.
The T-Rex Cave Attack
Mills and Koa find a cave and try to get some sleep, but before they complete an REM cycle, their motion detectors go haywire. At first, it seems like there’s something inside the cave, so the two slowly move toward the entrance. But then lightning strikes outside, and we see a T-rex appear behind them. The beast lurches forward, getting farther into the cave than we’d expect from such a giant creature. Mills blasts away, but the bullets bounce off the dinosaur’s skin. The humans must delve deeper into the cave unless they want to become a dinner of two.
This is the sequence featuring that moment from the trailer. You know the one: the shot that made all dinosaur fans say, “Yep, I’m seeing this!” It’s such an unexpected reveal. We assume, like Mills and Koa, that the threat will emerge from the cave’s inky darkness, so we’re caught completely off guard when a freakin’ T-rex is just hanging out behind them. Sure, having the monster appear behind the unaware heroes is a time-tested horror trope, but that doesn’t make this moment any less intense. The anticipation of seeing Adam Driver turning around to witness this tower of terror is just as fun, if not more so, than the actual attack.
Adam Driver Fights A Pair Of Tyrannosauruses
Mills and Koa make it to the escape pod and attempt to take off as meteors rain down. However, a giant rock hits the ship and sends the pod careening down a cliff. In addition, two tyrannosauruses decide to try to open up the ship like a Kinder Joy. Mills exits and manages to get off a shot that momentarily takes one down. When all hope seems lost, Koa turns on a hologram of Mills’ daughter, distracting the T-rex and inspiring Mills to get back into the fight. He unloads his clip into the tyrant until it flops over, dead, only for the first one to reappear.
Luckily, Koa rushes in and saves the day with a bone shard to the T-rex’s eyeball. The beast stumbles back, only to be blasted by an eruption of lava-hot water. Once the steam clears, what’s left of the dinosaur’s melted face would make Freddy Krueger blush.
The final showdown includes Adam Driver versus two Tyrannosaurus rexes, a meteor shower, and a Hail Mary save from Koa. All of this happens while the Earth is minutes away from being obliterated, which just adds to the tension. It’s epic, and easily the most thrilling sequence of “65.”
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