What’s perhaps most disheartening is that Uncharted, which is meant to be about Nathan Drake, doesn’t seem very invested in him at all.
Based on the video game franchise, Uncharted has all the ingredients of a fun and entertaining adaptation, but the recipe doesn’t blend everything together well enough. Movie adaptations of video games don’t have the best history, though there are a few exceptions. Uncharted, however, is unfortunately not one of them. Directed by Ruben Fleischer from a screenplay by Rafe Judkins, Art Marcum, and Matt Holloway, Uncharted is joyless and has little to no personality.
Nathan “Nate” Drake (Tom Holland) is a bartender in New York who steals small, but expensive things from customers without them noticing. His days serving alcohol end when Victor “Sully” Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg) shows up one night asking Nate to join him in finding the lost treasure of Magellan. Nate only agrees to help because Sully — and, later, fellow treasure hunter Chloe Frazer (Sophia Ali) — claims to know his older brother Sam, who left their orphanage 15 years prior and only communicates with Nate via postcards. Of course, Nate and Sully are not the only ones after the treasure, with Santiago Moncada (Antonio Banderas), whose family funded Magellan and who believes the treasure is rightfully his, and his associate Jo Braddock (Tati Gabrielle) searching for it as well.
Uncharted isn’t without its merits. There are a few scenes filled with excitement and there is plenty of tension between all of the characters — all of whom have a lot of trust issues — that makes their interactions somewhat dynamic and interesting. Yet it’s also the lack of overall trust and the characters constantly trying to one-up each other that gets to be a bit tedious. There also isn’t very much charm embedded into the film and the more lighthearted moments fall flat, with only Wahlberg delivering a few lines that are comically well-timed. (Although the film frustratingly makes light of the fact that Sully looted Baghdad’s museum and it’s completely glossed over.)
The film opens on an action scene, which includes a second or two where the perspective is distinctly first-person to reflect a video game, but it’s not compelling enough to draw in viewers. One particular action sequence is memorable, but the remaining lack a sense of panache; even the clues throughout are far too quick to solve. What’s perhaps most disheartening is that Uncharted, which is meant to be about Nathan Drake, doesn’t seem very invested in him at all. Everything that happens in the film is more connected to Wahlberg’s Sully than to Nate and even the characters, including Chloe and Braddock, have a direct link to Sully’s past, so much so that Nate is somewhat sidelined in his own story.
Holland is alright in the role, but the issue is the film doesn’t seem to understand who Nate Drake is as a person, even in his early days, and it drags down the story. The film could have been about just anybody with the way Nate is written and that doesn’t make for a well-rounded character whose presence and characterization in the Uncharted games is strong. Wahlberg as Sully has a lot more charisma than Holland as Nate, but they do play off of each other well enough when they do share the screen. To that end, Uncharted works as a buddy adventure rather than as a genuinely good adaptation of the games themselves. Banderas is good as the antagonist Santiago, though he doesn’t get enough time to shine, and Gabrielle delivers in her performance. Crucially, it’s her facial expressions that showcase something deeper where the thin script leaves a lot to be desired.
Visually, Uncharted is forgettable. Some of the dialogue — like Chloe and Nate saying “water” as though the audience can’t actually see the water is, in fact, rising — is clunky and unnecessary. Yet another scene sees Sully telling Nate (but really, he’s telling the audience) that he’s catching feelings for Chloe, but their scenes and chemistry don’t at all reflect this statement. In this regard, Uncharted is more concerned with telling instead of showing, which considerably weakens the narrative. The film follows a similar structure as Indiana Jones and even National Treasure; it also draws from Tomb Raider among others, but it’s lacking a distinct spark. It certainly doesn’t have the same sense of joy or life that the games have or else the film would have been better.
Nate Drake didn’t need an origin story and when Uncharted leans into the adventure aspects, it’s easy to see what kind of film it might have been if it had just gone all in. There are fun moments and an interesting enough story, sure, but the execution is all rather bland and lacking in energy. When Nate figures out whatever clue is next, the thrill of the journey is subdued. Viewers will find that Uncharted functions a lot like the old lighter Nate carries around — it flickers and burns brightly for a second before going out, the flames too few and far between to be of any significance.
Uncharted releases in theaters on the evening of February 17, 2022. The film is 116 minutes long and is rated PG-13 for violence/action and language.
- Uncharted (2022)Release date: Feb 18, 2022
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