Uncharted doesn’t have much to make it an unorthodox adventure film.
Published on February 25, 2022
Rating 2 /5
Based on the popular video games, Uncharted plays like a standard adventure movie. Not a good one, not a terrible one, but certainly not a memorable picture. Oh, sure, the video game fans will likely chalk this failure up to the inability of Hollywood to understand video games, the disproven video game curse, or the miscasting of choosing the wiry Tom Holland as the gruff lead. All of that may be an issue, yes, but the fact remains that Uncharted doesn’t exactly have a whole lot to differentiate itself from the myriad of other treasure hunting pictures, far from the ability to go toe-to-toe with Indiana Jones.
Consider how the film begins by establishing the character of Nathan Drake (Tom Holland) as a boy who grew up loving treasures, obsessing over history, and getting into trouble. His brother left him at an early age and is hoping that he may find him one day. Until that day, he grows up to become a bartender who spouts history facts while secretly swiping from wealthy patrons. His swiping skills are taken note of by Sully (Mark Wahlberg), a seasoned treasure hunter who could use some help on his latest adventure of unearthing the lost ships of the Magellan expedition. Given that Nathan has expert historical knowledge, cunning thief skills, and athletic agility. He can’t quite land a perfect kick or punch but he’ll do.
The two have some lukewarm chemistry as they go about infiltrating artifact auctions and exploring the catacombs of Barcelona. They run into a few familiar archetypes of this film genre. Chloe (Sophia Ali) is an old flame of Sully who is sometimes an ally but oftentimes a nemesis, building on a will-they-won’t-they dynamic that is most won’t. Santiago Moncada (Antonio Banderas) is your standard adventure villain, posed as a greedy man who seeks to reclaim the glory he feels his legacy has earned him. Then there’s the black knight of Jo (Tati Gabrielle), a vicious mercenary who aims to seek out the treasure all for herself, even going over the head of her employer.
Where the film manages to succeed is in its fast-paced action sequences. It makes sense that the picture would lead with an opener that finds Holland dangling out of a cargo plane. It’s a fun sequence, even though the visual effects compositing becomes painfully obvious at times. There are, however, some more practical fight scenes that are pleasing to watch unfold. Holland gets rather involved in scenes where’s expected to both mix drinks and beat back on the bad guys with all his skills of outmaneuvering and finding clever ways out of situations.
What’s not so much fun is the dynamic between Holland and Wahlberg which is very much lacking. Wahlberg makes passive insults about Holland’s height and age while Holland makes lackluster one-liners that fail to land a smile. For instance, there’s a sequence when Holland takes control of an aged ship and starts shouting orders about hoisting the sails. Wahlberg sneers at him while Holland admits with a smile “What, I’ve always wanted to do that.” There’s a hold for laughter but I highly doubt much will come. There are many moments such as this where the film will awkwardly pause after the expected laughter from bog-standard lines of an adventure film.
It’s mildly astonishing that this film actually features a cameo that only those familiar with the games will get. There’s a scene where Nathan briefly speaks with a nameless tourist played by Nolan North, the voice actor of Nathan Drake from the video games. North’s character mentions that he’s gotten similar antics as Holland. Of course, you’d have to play the games to get this reference and the appearance in the film feels awkward, where those not familiar with the Playstation franchise will scratch their heads. Perhaps Sony is underestimating just how prevalent their games are that they can make such a reference.
Uncharted doesn’t have much to make it an unorthodox adventure film. It has all the usual hallmarks of solving puzzles, besting baddies, and all manner of stunts and fight scenes. The chemistry is also rather lax and the story incredibly unremarkable made all the more tedious by its setup for a sequel. Maybe the next film will be better if Sony ever gets around to making it. But for this film, Uncharted is unremarkable.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.