DirectorScott Beck and Bryan Woods
Release Date(s)2023 (May 30, 2023)
Studio(s)Columbia Pictures/Bron Creative/TSG (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: C-
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: D
Sixty-five million years ago, on the planet Somaris, an advanced human species is thriving. Among them is Mills (Adam Driver), who takes a job piloting a deep space expedition to pay for his daughter Nevine’s medical treatments. But Mills is reluctant to go, as the mission will take him away from his family for two years… and that’s if all goes well. Once he’s out in deep space, however, his ship full of colonists frozen in stasis encounters an asteroid field, is damaged, and subsequently crash lands on an unknown alien world. But surprise—it’s actually Earth (and that’s not a spoiler, the filmmakers tell you this right in the title sequence). The ship breaks into multiple pieces on impact killing all but one of the colonists, a teenaged girl named Koa (Ariana Greenblatt). So Mills must fight to keep them both alive in order to reach the ship’s escape pod, located some fifteen kilometers away from where they crashed, in order to return to space and be rescued. And if you know anything at all about Earth’s ancient history, you’ll know that some very large and dangerous lifeforms are likely to stand in their way.
Written and directed by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, co-writers of John Kransinski’s A Quiet Place (reviewed here in 4K), 65 is not a terrible science fiction actioner, but it’s not a great one either. It is, in fact, pedestrian in virtually every respect… so much so that it’s hard to understand how a film like this even gets greenlit, much less actually made. It seems fairly clear that the pitch’s appeal to the studio was something on the order of “Adam Driver from Star Wars fights dinosaurs!” But the screenplay borrows heavily from Jurassic Park, Pitch Black, Planet of the Apes, and—perish the thought—even After Earth, then somehow manages to not be as interesting or entertaining as any of them. Not only does the story here rely heavily on jump scares and familiar sci-fi tropes, it gives away its only real twists almost from the start. So there’s precious little in the way of actual suspense to be found.
Even the story’s high concept elements are sketchy, requiring viewers to believe that a spacefaring human species—identical to our own in every way down to fashion, expressions, and the use of English—existed out in the galaxy at the time of the dinosaurs. (Hint: That’s not how evolution works.) It’s also revealed early on that Mills and Koa don’t speak the same language, yet for the rest of the film they seem to have no difficulty understanding one another. How much more interesting 65 might have been if Mills and Zoa were actually alien beings rather than humans! As it is, 65 aspires only to copy and reference better works (including a weird sound effects nod to War of the Worlds (1953) that pulls you right out of its moment), while adding nothing whatsoever that’s new or interesting to the genre.
In any case, 65 was captured digitally by cinematographer Salvatore Totino (The Da Vinci Code, Spider-Man: Homecoming) in the X-OCN-XT codec at 6K resolution, using Sony Venice cameras with Hawk V-Lite and V-Plus anamorphic lenses, and it was finished as a native 4K Digital Intermediate at the 2.39:1 aspect ratio. For its release on Ultra HD, the film has been graded for high dynamic range (both Dolby Vision and HDR10 are included on this disc). The resulting image is impressive, but only modestly so. Detail is crisp and clean at all times, though the cinematography seldom reveals it. Contrast is exceptional, with deep blacks and bright highlights. The color palette is nuanced and natural, albeit with a slight warm push that befits the lush jungle environments. But so much of the film takes place at night, in murky and atmospheric environments, or in the shadows, that there are few moments that really dazzle visually.
The audio experience, however, is more impressive. Primary audio on the 4K disc is presented in a fine English Dolby Atmos mix (7.1 Dolby TrueHD compatible) that’s smooth and expansive. From the film’s opening moments, you’re immersed in Chris Bacon’s score (Danny Elfman was announced as the original composer and apparently worked on several tracks, but Bacon—a regular Elfman collaborator—got final credit). When we first meet Mills, he’s on a beach with his family, and the listening space is filled with the sound of wind and waves. But it’s when his ship has its fateful encounter with the asteroid field that things get more dynamic. Bass is robust here, while the dialogue remains clear and well-centered. But the Atmos mix is effective in creating unique sonic environments, and a real sense of spaciousness within them, with the height channels employed to fill in the sound of wind, dinosaur calls, rain, and other atmospherics overhead. Additional sound options include English Audio Description, French and Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, and Portuguese and Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital. (Note that the Blu-ray’s primary audio is English 5.1 DTS-HD MA.) Optional subtitles are available in English, English SDH, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, French, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, and Thai.
Sony’s Ultra HD release is a 2-disc set, offering the film in 4K on UHD and also 1080p HD on Blu-ray. There are no extras on the 4K disc itself, but the Blu-ray adds the following:
- Deleted Scenes (HD – 5 scenes – 8:03 in all)
- Set in Stone: Filmmakers (HD – 4:21)
- Future of Yesterday: Creating the World of 65 (HD – 4:56)
- Primordial Planet (HD – 2:30)
- Final Showdown: Concepts to Screen (HD – 10:14)
The deleted scenes are mildly interesting, but everything that found its way to the cutting room floor deserved cutting. The rest of these featurettes are really just brief and glossy glimpses behind the scenes, and—based on what you do get to see—it’s hard to imagine that any additional VAM on this film could be interesting or insightful. At one point, one of the film’s young producers proclaims 65 as “one of a kind” and says “I’ve never seen anything like this before,” and you can’t help marveling at the fact that she seems unaware that other films in this genre even exist, much less far better ones. Ultimately, the impression one gets is that these filmmakers—though well-meaning—believe they’ve somehow invented a better wheel, when in reality they’re still driving with a learner’s permit on a well-worn autobahn. Rounding out the disc are 12 minutes of preview trailers for other films (though none for 65), and a Movies Anywhere Digital code is included on a paper slip in the packaging.
If you’re a fan of the sci-fi/action genre, you might find 65 modestly entertaining. If nothing else, Adam Driver certainly gives this role his best effort. But if you’re looking for better films of this type, the aforementioned Pitch Black is far more effective. Also worth your time—and it’s an indie gem you might have missed—is Zeek Earl and Chris Caldwell’s Prospect (2018), which is not only more original, its world-building and production design have much greater verisimilitude. Both films are also available in 4K UHD, and you’re better off spending your money on one of those instead. If you do choose to buy 65 in 4K, at least be sure get it on sale (and know that I commend your dedication to supporting the format).
- Bill Hunt