VOD film review: 65
Autopilot Adam Driver6
Lack of imagination4
Matthew Turner | On 16, May 2023
Director: Scott Beck, Bryan Woods
Cast: Adam Driver, Ariana Greenblatt, Chloe Coleman
On the surface, the ingredients for this sci-fi adventure thriller seem decidedly appetising. For one thing, it’s written and directed by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, the writers of A Quiet Place, who know a thing or two about extracting suspense from situations involving ravenous beasties. For another, it promises Adam Driver as an astronaut battling dinosaurs with space lasers. What could possibly go wrong?
The film starts promisingly enough. Driver plays Commander Mills, a spaceship pilot from a distant planet who agrees to undertake a two-year delivery mission in order to make enough money to pay for a life-saving operation for his young daughter, Nevine (Chloe Coleman). Unfortunately, he runs into an asteroid storm and ends up crash-landing on Earth, 65 million years in the past.
As any dinosaur nerd will tell you, 65 million years ago is when the dinosaurs were supposedly wiped out, which makes you look at that asteroid storm in a new light, especially when one of them is revealed to still be heading for Earth. With the clock ticking, Mills and the mission’s sole survivor – a young girl named Koa (Ariana Greenblatt), who doesn’t speak English – have to embark on a dangerous mission across a canyon to reach the half of their crashed spaceship that has the escape pod. There’s just one problem standing in their way: lots and lots of very hungry dinosaurs.
The key thing missing from the film is a sense of fun. This could have been an unabashedly schlocky B-movie, gleefully revelling in its own nonsense and maybe recreating the Jeff Bridges / Hailee Steinfeld dynamic from True Grit into the bargain, with Driver’s gruff exterior gradually softening as he comes to care for his de facto daughter.
Instead, the film is almost unbearably po-faced. Koa not being able to speak English (for some reason) immediately robs the film of any fun dialogue opportunities, and it quickly gets boring hearing her just repeat the last few words of whatever she hears. That same decision also strips the film of a degree of emotional investment. Driver and Greenblatt do their best with the limited script, but they never really generate a connection that feels convincing or worth rooting for.
On top of that, the action quickly becomes derivative. Sure, it’s fun, initially, to see Driver blasting away at a dinosaur with a laser gun, but there’s no imagination beyond that basic set-up, certainly nothing on a level with what Beck and Woods pulled off with their Quiet Place script. There are a handful of tedious jump scares, but no real tension or suspense, and no memorable set-pieces either. It doesn’t help that Salvatore Totino’s cinematography is consistently murky and frustrating, as if it’s deliberately dark to obscure the sub-par effects work, seeing as the dinosaurs are mostly in the shadows.
On a final note, the film bungles its only chance to do or say something interesting around humankind’s origins. As a result, you strongly suspect that certain aspects of the script didn’t survive the production.