Netflix Just Gave This Dinosaur Thriller a Surprising Second Life
Well worth the trip to Netflix.
As we’ve learned with recent Hollywood strikes, streaming isn’t nearly as sustainable (or lucrative) as studios would have you believe. But when it comes to midbudget underdogs, it’s hard to argue with the convenience that platforms like Netflix and Max provide. While indie studios go toe-to-toe with assured blockbusters at the box office, streamers have become a lifeline for films that would otherwise be doomed to obscurity. A less-than-successful theatrical run is no longer a death sentence for the B-movie, as 65’s recent comeback through Netflix is currently proving.
65 was, by all accounts, a box office flop. Its simple, silly premise (Adam Driver fights dinosaurs!) ended up lost in the wave of all the IP-driven fare that dropped before and after. It’s a shame that Driver is sporting his best look in a film that no one could be bothered to see in theaters, but he’s one of the very things that makes this pulpy thriller worth your time. It helps that our hero is so committed to making even the silliest aspects of this film feel grounded and real. Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, the writing duo behind A Quiet Place, approach the project with similar dedication. Their mean, lean script doesn’t waste too much time on the how or why: it’d much rather plop audiences right into a world where dinosaurs still rule, and pit Driver’s capable hero against the elements.
At some points, that can work to 65’s detriment. Their story is a little light on substance, relying instead on well-worn tropes and thrilling creature designs to bring us into the action. But once you settle in (and maybe turn your brain off for a while), 65 is a surprisingly compelling watch, one well worth a visit to Netflix.
65 essentially leads with its big twist: what if explorers crash landed on a primitive planet and were forced to survive against prehistoric aliens? The planet, of course, is Earth, and the aliens are, in fact, dinosaurs. It’s a simple enough premise, one that brings a distant future to our familiar past. But questions still abound for audiences tuning in. Is time travel involved? Is Driver’s stoic pilot, Mills, actually human? And why does he speak English while fellow survivor Koa (Ariana Greenblatt) speaks a different language?
Of course, that’s all just minutiae. All that really matters is whether Mills and Koa can make it back home in one piece. While their ship was scuttled in an unforeseen meteor shower, they’ve still got an escape vessel. They just need to travel a ways to get to it, past hungry dinos and unforgiving terrain, and all before one massive meteor brings an end to all life on the planet.
It’s hard not to compare 65 to late ‘80s/early ‘90s pulp like Jurassic Park or Predator. Beck and Woods also take a page from Ridley Scott’s Alien when crafting the film’s scarier elements. The dinos look fantastic, and flashes of body horror never let you forget that this is, actually, an alien movie. But 65 also finds moments of levity when it can, and a lot of it lives in the dynamic between Mills and Koa.
Both Mills and Koa find themselves grappling with loss in different ways. Mills is fighting to get back to his terminally-ill daughter, while Koa hopes to reunite with her parents, from whom she was separated during the crash. As they battle the elements and struggle against their language barrier, they eventually find a home in each other. They also manage to bring a few laughs to an otherwise grim adventure — though it does inevitably take a back seat whenever a dinosaur rears its head.
If 65 had been made a few decades ago, it’d have been an unquestionable hit. It’s been touted as derivative, especially compared to other otherworldly thrillers, but Beck and Woods are clearly crafting a love letter to the films they grew up loving, and they do it with an enviable amount of skill. There’s a reason why 65 found its second life on Netflix: it may not be the most memorable film of the year, but it’s certainly a good time. And at a breezy 90 minutes, there are worse ways to spend an afternoon.