65 ★★★½

It's The Last of Us but as a sci-fi survival B-movie thriller in a prehistoric setting, from the writers of 2018's A Quiet Place. With 65, writers and directors Scott Beck and Bryan Woods delivered the same small-scale thrills and suspense that made A Quiet Place critically-acclaimed without a 100+mil budget, showing that mid-sized budget thrillers can be just as effective as summer blockbusters simply by scaling the stakes down to a believable, ground-level threat - something that the latest Marvel film failed spectacularly to do with their street-level superhero Ant-Man in Ant-Man: Quantumania. That same small-scale inventiveness is carried across to the plot which is refreshingly simple and easy-to-follow - and though I suspect many will accuse the film of being derivative, it seems almost as if Beck and Woods are keenly aware of this as well, paring the sci-fi elements and backstories down to barebones & allowing the audience to fill in the gaps themselves with their own familiarity of various films that have served as inspiration. 

Adam Driver is the sci-fi Joel Miller meets Ellen Ripley hero-protagonist, & the Ellie/ Newt proxy is played by actress Ariana Greenblatt. There are not many Hollywood leading men who can totally command the screen with just their charisma and presence alone, especially in a film where much of the dialogue is kept at minimum. But Driver is one of those big-screen stars who can totally grip you from start-to-finish while also elevating the material way beyond what he's given.

Visually, the film's sci-fi imagery and design seems inspired by everything from third-person shooter video games to movies, running the gamut from Mass Effect, Dead Space to Alien, Oblivion and Dune. While somewhat derivative this isn't inherently negative as the designs were refreshingly simple & clean without being overly-designed and look great juxtaposed against the wild nature-y prehistoric setting. The CG-effects were impressive and utilised effectively where necessary, with Beck and Woods orchestrating some fun setpieces using horror fillmmaking, tension-building and jump scares - unsurprising given their track record with A Quiet Place but also the involvement of Sam Raimi as a producer on this - while saving the bigger scale threat where it counts, particularly the climax. Honestly my only gripe was the Danny Elfman/ Chris Bacon score felt a little overpowering at times, featured in almost every minute of the film, & I wished some scenes were allowed to breathe a little allowing us to soak in the visuals and the prehistoric landscape without the distraction of a relentless, pulsating score.

Reading an interview with Beck and Woods it seemed like they set out to make a fun sci-fi thriller that was different than the usual comic-book superhero fare in this current cinema landscape, and in my opinion they did. I certainly think this was way better than Quantumania or Jurassic Park Dominion which had 4-5 times the budget. Adjusting my expectations to the 45mil budget, I had a really fun time with this. Not to mention the beautiful 93-mins runtime - oh 90-mins mainstream movies, how I've missed you! That alone deserves an extra star bump honestly.

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