Terror on Terra
Directed by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods
Starring Adam Driver, Ariana Greenblat, Chloe Coleman
The hook of 65 is a good one. A human being from a technologically advanced planet crash lands on Earth sixty-five million years ago. This starship trooper is Mills (Adam Driver), who hails from the planet Somaris. He’s taken on a multi-year, long-range exploratory space mission so he can make enough money to pay for medical treatment for his young daughter Nevine (Chloe Coleman), who suffers from an unspecified illness.
Thanks to a pesky asteroid field, the exploratory spacecraft crashes on Earth, killing everyone on board except for Mills. After realizing the atmosphere is breathable, Mills takes a look around, hoping to locate an escape pod that broke off from his doomed ship. He sees a large footprint in the mud. He hears a far-off roar. Mills is terrified. Then the film cuts to the title screen. This is a great opening because we know what made that print and what kind of creature was roaring, but Mills doesn’t. He is soon to find out.
It’s the age of dinosaurs, yes, but there are other challenges facing the mettlesome Mills. The Earth itself is different and more hostile than we would recognize today. Strange plants, powerful geysers, quicksand, giant insects, hot springs, tar pits, and wild weather are all dangers that Mills must deal with as he makes his way back to his escape pod. Complicating matters is the discovery of another surviving passenger, Koa (Ariana Greenblat). Koa is a young girl who speaks a different language than Mills, but he does his best to relay that they must get to the top of a certain mountain to find their way off of this strange, chaotic planet. Koa and Mills form a strong bond as they face relentless peril from unfamiliar terrain and aggressive creatures. Luckily, Mills has a laser rifle and other space-age weaponry.
Given the pulpy sci-fi concept it’s impressive that Adam Driver commits to the role as seriously as he does. He’s playing it straight and going for broke in many scenes. There are moments of grief and sadness that he is able to realistically convey, and his intense facial expressions alone effectively heighten the tension. Driver’s casting completely changes the type of movie this might have been had someone else been cast as Mills. Another actor might have tried to add a jokey wink to their performance or might have played up the action hero angle. But this is not a story that has much room for levity or humor. This is a sad film about survival and survivor’s guilt.
Koa starts off with an inscrutable visage, but by the end of the film she comes across as a heartwarming character. The dinosaur visual effects are solid if a bit cartoony at times. Are all of the dinosaurs and insects and flora and fauna that are depicted here ones that actually existed? Probably not. Did someone from another planet crash land on Earth in the age of dinosaurs? Probably not. But is this film a neat idea that is executed well? Yes. Written and directed by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, the screenwriters behind A Quiet Place, 65 is a short and to-the-point ninety minutes, the cinematic equivalent of science fiction short stories found in newsstand magazines in the halcyon days of yesteryear.