Saturday, March 11, 2023

Jurassic World: 65

It may be a slow slog through a prehistoric jungle, but at least Adam Driver is there. The premise behind 65, named after how many millions of years in the past it’s set, finds a spaceship pilot crashing on Earth on the last day of the dinosaurs. He’s all set to off himself in despair until he realizes there’s one other survivor: a little girl (Ariana Greenblatt). Together they have to trudge across the wilderness, dodge a few dinosaurs, and get to the escape pod before the asteroid hits. Not a bad idea. In practice, the movie is sluggish and sparse, with a meager number of dino-related suspense moments and lots of slow-boil, largely dialogue-free, character interactions as the glum Driver and the girl—who don’t speak the same language—inevitably learn an ad hoc way to communicate and, wouldn’t you know it, care about each other. Driver is one of our finest actors, and though the movie gives him little to work with verbally or contextually, he’s able to use an expressive physicality that allows him to glower and smolder and sink into grief far more believable than what’s on the page. Imagine, say, a Tom Holland in the role, and I don’t know if it works as well. No offense to him.

It’s through Driver's performance—moving in a slow-motion, underwater sadness—that it becomes clear the movie is yet another modern genre effort that’s an extended metaphor for depression. His character is in a state of mourning for his home life—filled in with flashbacks—and in despair over his crashed fate. Only the glimmer of duty in protecting and caring for another person keeps him barely invested in staying alive and moving forward. No coincidence, then, that writer-directors Scott Beck and Bryan Woods (cashing in on their big hit Quiet Place screenplay) have set the stage at the end of one era in our planet’s history and beginning of the next. By the time the movie arrives at its fiery conclusion, with asteroid pieces raining hellfire down on the prehistoric landscape as our characters make their last-minute attempt at escape, there’s something potent about the idea of a desperate climb out of one’s sadness—it’s either the end, or a new start. I just wished, for a movie about a spaceman trapped in dinosaur times, there were more use of that tension throughout. There are a few fleeting moments of effective creature feature skill—a tyrannosaurus rex ominously illuminated in the night by a lightening strike, a few jump scares with snarling teeth and looming claws—but the movie strangely underplays its own high concept. All the more accurate for its aims to make us feel Driver’s disappointment, I suppose.

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