In the interests of doing other things with my free time, this review will be written in approximately thirty minutes. Timer starts…now!
Director Ruben Fleischer’s adaptation of the Uncharted video game series does not reinvent the wheel, but proves pleasant enough due to the watchability of lead Tom Holland
Starring Tom Holland, Mark Wahlberg, Sophia Ali, Tati Gabrielle, and Antonio Banderas
For a film called Uncharted it is perhaps strange that one cannot help but feel that this movie is an incredibly familiar tale. Borrowing liberally from established successes such as Tomb Raider, Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones and National Treasure, it is clear to see where Uncharted views its own appeal to be, but unfortunately fails to provide anything to elevate and set it apart, instead making it a pale imitation of these successes.
Of course, the choice for lead is the unthreatening Hollywood male of the moment – perennial nice guy Tom Holland. Truthfully, without his presence, there’s little doubt that this film would be far more poorly attended and less liked, as his own charisma enhances the paper-thin script. Holland plays Nathan Drake, a bartender/pickpocket, whose brother – on the night that he abandoned him – told him about a fabled treasure belonging to Ferdinand Magellan: the largest fortune yet to be discovered.
Many years, and an entirely new face later, and it transpires that this off-the-hand comment by brother Sam is critically important, as Sully (Mark Wahlberg) appears, offering Nate the chance to search for the gold together with the incentive of finally reuniting with his brother to boot. Unfortunately, as it transpires, neither Nate nor Sully trust each other, and when their crowd expands to include fellow treasure hunter Chloe (Sophia Ali) and the competing force of cold-hearted assassin Braddock (Tati Gabrielle) in the employ of money-hungry Moncada (Antonio Banderas), loyalties are pushed to breaking point.
The film decides to take a decidedly less linear approach to its format of storytelling (perhaps worried that its actual narrative is too thin to support a traditional progression), starting with Holland in the midst of the climactic, gravity-defying conflict that starts Act 3 of the film, before flashing back to his troubled childhood, in order to contextualise adult Nate’s desire to ally himself with Sully to find Magellan’s treasure.
Where Uncharted ends up feeling soulless is that it has small moments of intrigue, such as Chloe, Nate and Sully following small clues in a diary, it fails to stand toe-to-toe with cleverer scripts. While there are echoes of National Treasure, it feels like a pale imitation. Nate and Sully’s powers of deduction in no way rival Nicolas Cage’s Ben Gates’. The entire premise behind the plot is that Nate is necessary for the mission, though he does not actually supply any unique skills – in contrast to Ben Gates, who propels the narrative of National Treasure due to his historical knowledge. It appears throughout this film – barring one small moment that was foreshadowed right at the beginning – that Sully could have picked anybody to help him with his quest.
National Treasure also ends up being more engrossing because the action take place in recognisable landmarks. Additionally, Ben Gates was also not motivated by the desire to get rich, but instead a fascination with the history and the mystery behind it. He was not a gold hunter, and was in fact working to stop people who sought to take that history for their own. In contrast, Uncharted quite literally obliterates these historical objects and its characters are solely motivated to gain the treasure for themselves.
Sully and Nate’s lack of trust for each other also means that their partnership and banter dynamic does not fly in the same way as the filmmakers seem to want it to. It appears as if they are to be the next buddy pairing, but they do not bounce off of each other in a particularly meaningful way. That’s not to say that all buddy pairings need to like each other or even to trust each other, but Ryan Reynolds and Dwayne Johnson’s dynamic in Red Notice worked far more successfully. While Holland’s Nate does seem to be far more fun and sarcastic than Sully’s dry demeanour, there’s something about the dynamic that doesn’t really fly.
Uncharted is diverting enough, owing mainly to Holland’s appeal, but could have achieved loftier heights were the script more concerned with crafting three-dimensional characters. Instead, everybody appears motivated purely for material gain and the stakes largely feel empty and meaningless.
Uncharted was released on February 11, 2022