Movie Review: Uncharted
Cast: Tom Holland, Mark Wahlberg, Sophia Ali, Tati Gabrielle, Antonio Banderas | Director: Ruben Fleischer | Screenwriters: Rafe Lee Judkins, Art Marcum, Matt Holloway | Producers: Charles Roven, Avi Arad, Alex Gartner, Ari Arad | Executive producers: Ruben Fleischer, Robert J. Dohrmann, David Bernad, Tom Holland, Asad Qizilbash, Carter Swan, Neil Druckmann, Evan Wells, Art Marcum, Matt Holloway | Director of photography: Chung-hoon Chung | Production designer: Shepherd Frankel
This weekend, you’ll be able to go to theaters and see a highly entertaining thrill ride of a movie, featuring Tom Holland performing death-defying stunts and spending a good portion of the film’s running time engaging in witty banter and flying through the air.
I’m talking, of course, about Spider-Man: No Way Home.
Oh, there’s also Uncharted, the feature film version of the hit PlayStation video game series, starring Holland as globe-trotting, history-obsessed treasure hunter Nathan Drake and Mark Wahlberg as Victor “Sully” Sullivan, Nathan’s shady mentor. The film deviates from the video games in many ways, being an origin story featuring younger versions of the beloved characters.
And if you’re thinking that Wahlberg once would have been a great choice to play Nathan himself, you’re not alone. The film has been in development for so many years that he was formerly attached to play the role until he eventually aged out of it.
Resembling the love child of Tomb Raider, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and National Treasure, Uncharted definitely feels like a video game adaptation, so rapidly segueing from one elaborate action set piece to another that your fingers may start twitching while watching it. Director Ruben Fleischer knows his way around this sort of material, having previously helmed such movies as Venom and Zombieland, and he understands that the target audience isn’t particularly interested in deep characterizations or sophisticated dialogue.
Still, it would have been nice if screenwriters Rafe Lee Judkins, Art Marcum, and Matt Holloway had come up with something more interesting than this generic adventure in which Nate and Sully team up to first commit a robbery at a high-end auction house and then head to exotic locales in search of Ferdinand Magellan’s lost treasure of gold. Or more interesting villains than the ruthless Santiago Moncada, played by Antonio Banderas in a performance that can best be described as detached. Or wittier exchanges than Sully constantly teasing Nate about his gumchewing and Nate responding in kind about Sully’s habit of leaving too many open apps on his cell phone.
More problematically, Nate and Sully, mutually supportive in the games, here come across like a bickering couple on the verge of divorce. Wahlberg’s Sully looks and behaves disgruntled so much of the time that you begin to wonder how these two went on to form a long-running partnership. (Or maybe the actor was just annoyed at disappearing from the story for long stretches of time.)
This star vehicle doesn’t exactly feel like a stretch for Holland, since his Nate, an expert pickpocket, is basically a more larcenous Peter Parker minus the web-spinning — at one point, he apologizes to a bad guy he’s just sent plummeting to his death, which is exactly what Peter would do. As made evident by his many shirtless scenes, the actor clearly buffed up for the role, the better to perform the numerous high-octane stunts that include falling out of an airplane and a lengthy parkour-style foot chase.
The film features plenty of photogenic real-life locations and some genuinely exciting action sequences, including the aforementioned airplane scene — which opens the film and is reprised later on — and a breathless battle involving airborne 16th-century sailing ships.
Refreshingly, it’s the female characters who are the most badass. Sully’s longtime treasure hunting associate Chloe Frazer (a charismatic Sophie Ali) more than keeps up with the guys when it comes to physical derring-do, and Moncado’s blade-wielding henchwoman Braddock (Tati Gabrielle, fearsome) is a homicidal villainess who could give James Bond a run for his money.
You can’t say that the makers of Uncharted lack confidence since the film ends with the sort of cliffhanger that basically promises a sequel. It’s a bold move, considering the number of video game film adaptations that have crashed and burned, but with the charismatic Holland as its star, it just may pay off.