June 5, 2023
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Life & Culture

Review: Sci-fi action flick is a tonal disaster


Sony Pictures Releasing

In their first outing since 2018’s “A Quiet Place,” Scott Beck and Bryan Woods have returned with their second screenplay and directorial debut, “65.” The Adam Driver-led sci-fi action flick follows Mills, a pilot from Somaris, a fictional planet, who is responsible for an extra-terrestrial exploration mission with a group of cryogenically frozen peers. But when an uncharted asteroid belt forces the ship to crash land, he must find a way off this strange planet, which is soon to be revealed to be Earth, 65 million years ago.

“65” is somewhat of a puzzling film. In its trailers, the film is advertised as a more horror-based action-thriller while still incorporating the classic images of creature features like the “Jurassic Park” and “Jurassic World” franchises, while also utilizing futuristic technology a la “Star Wars” or “Blade Runner.” However, the end result audiences will see is a tonal mess that will leave them feeling confused and frustrated.

While Beck and Woods have a clear grasp of the visual elements required for storytelling, their script and command of the tone are all over the place. Discreet scenes travel from drama to comedy to horror and back in a matter of minutes, giving audiences no time to breathe or even comprehend the events they just witnessed. Many scenes feel much shorter than necessary, which is likely because of an effort to get the film to its modest 93-minute runtime. But this leaves plot beats feeling unresolved, making the simple “find a way out” plot more frustrating than necessary.

In regard to the acting, Driver gives a bland performance, offering just barely more emotion than the vapid and unfeeling script provides him with, despite his best efforts. Mills as a character is one audiences know already. A man who has been forced apart from his family for the sake of protecting and serving them. He only took the mission to pay for treatment to fight the mystery disease his daughter (Chloe Coleman) has. Unfortunately, Beck and Woods do not take the opportunity to expand on this trope or even Mills as a character. The most interesting moments are those between him and his daughter, as Driver and Coleman give their characters heartwarming chemistry that is far more tender than the dialogue would suggest. But this is hindered by the circumstances of Mills literally being on another planet, meaning their shared moments are few and far between.

Driver’s scene partner for much of the film is instead a child from his planet, Koa (Ariana Greenblatt). Similar to Driver, Greenblatt tries to make the most of what she is given, however, this is her least impressive performance so far. Despite the script being so two-dimensional, her work throughout the film is still admirable. She ranges from the emotional core to the comedic relief of multiple scenes.

Overall, Beck and Woods’ direction only weakens a screenplay already in need of many more drafts. Driver and Greenblatt are not able to save this unexciting and by-the-book sci-fi thriller. The twist on a basic premise allowing for the sleek look of futuristic, science fiction-esque technology to cross with the mayhem inherent in any plot involving dinosaurs is one that certainly will entice audiences, but the end result will leave them feeling unfulfilled and overall disappointed.