Borrowing the flash-forward opening from the second game, Uncharted begins with our hero dangling out of the back of a cargo plane as he desperately tries to clamber back inside before a flashback sets up the film’s two central mysteries. Eventually settling in the present day, Nathan Drake (Holland) is now a light-fingered bartender when he is approached by raffish treasure hunter, Victor ‘Sully’ Sullivan (Wahlberg), promising not only a share of $5 billion worth of lost gold but answers about Nate’s long-lost brother Sam.
Fresh off the success of Spider-Man: No Way Home, Tom Holland shines as the street-savvy adventurer. Whilst he lacks the wise-cracking quips of his videogame counterpart, Holland’s Nathan Drake is equally enduring. His motivations are far more personal than a simple hunt for fortune and glory, adding a different dimension to a character who’s somewhat of a scoundrel in the games. In contrast to a more noble Nathan Drake, Mark Wahlberg brings his trademark swagger and charisma to a slightly sleazier Sully than fans of the games are used to. It’s both interesting and a pleasant surprise to see this new dynamic play out onscreen as while Sully’s true intentions and unclear, Wahlberg’s chemistry with Holland is wonderfully transparent. Their bickering and bantering are entertaining and mercifully not as cringey as some of the trailers made me fear; however, the wit of Amy Hennig (the writer of the games) is sorely absent.
Neither of them strangers to action, Holland and Wahlberg both sell the film’s many major set pieces well. Despite only the climactic action sequence living up to the bombastic spectacle and originality of the source material, the aforementioned cargo plane set piece is translated effectively from the third game. A particularly suspenseful sequence set in the quickly-flooding catacombs of Barcelona is also worthy of note.
Relentlessly pursuing Nate and Sully throughout the film is the sinister Santiago Moncada (Antonio Banderas) and his right-hand woman Braddock (a wonderful Tati Gabrielle). Despite Banderas’ ominous performance, he’s little more than a cookie-cutter oligarchical antagonist. Undeniably stealing the show is Tati Gabrielle’s Braddock; her ruthlessness is striking and her connection to Sully provides a captivating wrinkle to both her relationship with our heroes and their relationship with each other.
Like the games, Uncharted spotlights a famous long-lost colonial explorer as the foundation of its central mystery. Unfortunately, the somewhat bland search for gold is a tad uninspired, especially when the games often had you tracking down grandiose mythical cities. Additionally, Holland’s Nathan Drake feels deficient of any real agency in regards to solving said mystery. Instead, he’s relegated to simply following the clues laid by his missing brother.
More an interpolation of elements of the games than a straight adaptation, Uncharted makes a number of changes its translation to the big screen. As previously highlighted, Sully transforms the most – at least initially – while Sophia Ali’s Chloe Frazer is virtually the same, all the way down to her inconsistent Anglo-Australian accent. Despite the differences, Uncharted is evidently made with a real affinity for the videogames. Whether it’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Naughty Dog logo or a delightful cameo from one of the games’ stars, the filmmakers’ reverence for their source material is refreshing.
As a videogame series renowned for its breath-takingly cinematic quality, Uncharted doesn’t quite live up to the legacy of the games. Nevertheless, the film is still remarkably fun; Holland and Wahlberg are entertaining and the set pieces are captivating. While it’s no Raiders of the Lost Ark, Uncharted certainly does scratch the itch for a globe-trotting action-adventure experience.