The term "Syfy Channel movie", I understand, is a bit of a pejorative, a suggestion of cheap effects and bad plots. 65 is what I imagine a Syfy Channel movie to be.
"Prior to the Advent of Man, in the Infinity of Space, Other Civilizations Explored the Heavens" we are informed via on-screen text. On the distant planet Somaris, space pilot Mills (Adam Driver) takes on "one last job" to transport a group of Somarians to another planet. He does this to help pay for his daughter's medical treatment, though it means being away for two years.
On their way to whatever planet they are destined for, Mills' ship is hit by a small meteor, and he crashes onto a strange new world. "65 Million Years Ago a Visitor Crash Landed on Earth", more text informs us.
Mills believes himself to be the sole survivor, but he finds someone else in their cryogenic chamber. This is Koa (Ariana Greeblatt), a young girl who does not speak English. There is an escape pod on the other side of the mountain they have crashed onto, so Mills and Koa must travel across this mysterious planet to get to it and rendezvous with a rescue ship. This planet, however, provides many dangers, specifically with dinosaurs which menace them at every turn. That, coupled with an impending end to the terrible lizards, makes it a race against time.
If 65 has one positive, it is its brief running time of 93 minutes. As such, one can watch 65 without worrying too much about spending a lot of time with Mills and Koa. 65's running time, though, also gives it a curious problem.
As it is so short, there is no time for anything like character development. We get bits early on with Mills (he has a wife and daughter, the daughter is sick, he needs to take a job he doesn't care for to pay for treatment). However, writers/directors Scott Beck and Bryan Woods apparently went through all that trouble to give us no payoff.
In a curious set of flashbacks, we learn the fate of Mills' daughter. The way it was set up though is at times confusing: is he remembering or imagining what became of her? It is a bit muddled, but that is how most of 65 is.
It is as if the film never quite decided what it wanted to be, so it tried to be everything. An action/adventure? A sci-fi thriller? A mix? It wanted so much to put a new spin on time travel by putting essentially futuristic characters in a prehistoric setting, but somehow it did not jell.
Perhaps Beck and Woods tried to be too clever by half with their story. A much simpler storyline where either they were from the future and traveled to the past or were from Earth and found themselves in the past or even that strange new world may not be original. However, it is less needlessly complicated.
It does seem disingenuous to try something original when 65 hits practically every cliche possible. The informal father/daughter bond. The various escapes from dinosaur clutches. The "race against time" elements. Perhaps I can give some credit to not having Mills and Koa speak the same language. I could also throw a bone to the idea that they were from the past but with futuristic overlays. However, it was almost a waiting game to see what other familiar beats 65 would hit.
It is not through the fault of the two main actors (Mills' wife and daughter appearing in only one scene and in flashbacks respectively). Adam Driver does his best to sell the premise and make Mills interesting. He is not written that way, but I admire Driver's solid determination to play the role with whatever depth he can bring to it. Greenblatt had a harder task in making Koa both interesting and in a foreign language. I would say she too did her best. Whether that best is any good, I cannot say for certain.
65 can, I suppose, be given some credit for having an effective early jump scare and a sense of place. It also allows Mills to be physically hurt, which is a change from many action characters who are almost impervious to physical pain and injury.
However, none of the ideas that 65 has really works. It reminds me of what I have said about other films: 65 feels like a season recap of a television series I have never seen. It barely seems able to hold its story together for its 93 minutes. Worse of all, 65 feels as if it is 93 minutes long to allow for commercials to fill in a two-hour late-night television slot.
I doubt anyone going into 65 expected a deep, introspective film. I think most expected action and adventure. Perhaps a few expected a bit of camp. It did not give anyone either. While not the worst film I have seen this year, 65 crash lands to be a not terrible but not good way to use up the time.