65, the sci-fi action film starring Adam Driver as an astronaut stranded on a prehistoric Earth, finally arrived on Netflix, and it quickly became the most-streamed movie on the service. A lot’s been written about 65 since its theatrical release this past March, from the influence Ridley Scott’s Alien had on the film to how much writer-directors Scott Beck and Bryan Woods wanted to break the Jurassic Park franchise’s monopoly on scary action dinosaurs.
While the fear of fending off a host of gigantic carnivorous creatures while trying to escape an impending extinction-level meteor strike is the driving force of 65’s story, something else about the film has stuck with me ever since I first caught it in theaters — something even more terrifying than man-eating dinosaurs. Apparently, according to this movie, capitalism and medical debt are inevitable, no matter where in the universe you’re born, or when.
[Ed. note: Spoilers ahead for 65.]
Like most folks, I sat down to watch 65 with only one expectation in mind: I thought Adam Driver would travel back in time and fight dinosaurs on Earth. At the very least, that’s what I expected going off the trailer. Little did I know that the film throws a curveball at the audience right at the start: Yes, Adam Driver’s character Mills is stranded on a prehistoric Earth, and yes, he does fight dinosaurs. However, he doesn’t time travel, and he isn’t even human. He’s an alien from a proto-human planet, Somaris, who took a shipping job to earn enough money to get treatment for his daughter, who has a life-threatening ailment.
On the surface, this detail is obviously intended to introduce Mills to the audience as a relatable protagonist with a grounded personal stake in escaping Earth, aside from his own survival. But it unintentionally opened up a can of worms that swarmed rent-free in the back of my mind for the entire duration of the film. Not since Prometheus have I left a movie so befuddled by questions where the implied answers only beget even more questions.
Why do the Somarisians look like humans? Did Mills’ encounter on Earth somehow inadvertently seed human life on the planet, or did humanity arise independent of him? Does all intelligent life in this universe resemble human beings, and if so, why? Why does this highly advanced alien species that’s entirely divorced from human history even have the concept of shipping contractors, money, a salary, or commoditized medical treatment?
If you’re anywhere close to as terminally online as I am, you may at some point have come across the concept of “capitalist realism.” Coined by the late political theorist Mark Fisher in his 2009 book Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?, the term refers to the hegemonic notion that capitalism is the only viable political and economic system through which society can be organized.
This notion is so ubiquitous, Fisher argues, that any other alternative becomes unimaginable. Fisher cites several films, such as 2006’s Children of Men and 2008’s WALL-E, which each reinforce this perspective in their own unique ways. Whether intentional or wholly by accident, 65 is yet another movie that holds up capitalist realism. It’s set in a universe where predatory capitalism — the kind that turns lifesaving medical care into a purchasable product — is not only the organizing principle of civilization, it predates the history of human civilization entirely.
We’re currently living through what many scholars, historians, and economists would describe as a second Gilded Age, an echo of a period in American history defined by economic inequality and monopolistic power increasing exponentially, in tandem with populist uprisings and technological innovation. Whether intended or not, 65’s opening feels like a reflection of a cultural moment where people feel increasingly incapable of imagining a world — any world — that’s untouched by the power of capital and debt.
Ultimately, however, 65 is unconcerned with the larger questions and themes that arise from its opening minutes. It’s way more concerned with Mills’ personal journey of survival and retribution, which largely consists of traveling across vast stretches of jungle terrain and shooting dinosaurs with his fancy sci-fi beam rifle. And honestly, who could blame the film for that? It’s easier to imagine winning a fight against a dinosaur than it is to imagine the end of capitalism.
65 is now streaming on Netflix.