Uncharted hits theaters on Feb. 18, 2022.
Uncharted is a simple, safe, but ultimately pretty effective introduction to treasure hunter Nathan Drake. Fans of the beloved PlayStation games might be surprised to see how much has changed to fit an Uncharted story in a single movie’s runtime – it squeezes in a new origin story while reenacting action sequences from multiple games – but it all makes for a decently fun sampling of what Nate and Sully have to offer on the big screen.
For an origin story, Uncharted ironically doesn’t waste any time explaining the backstories of any of the characters. We’re immediately thrown into the exploits of cocky young thief Nathan Drake (Tom Holland) and veteran treasure hunter Victor “Sully” Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg), who tries to recruit Nate for an upcoming heist. They’re both looking for the next big score and that's really all the backstory you need to know. This allows Uncharted to hit the ground running, in a good way; I appreciate that the script doesn’t spend much time on unnecessary exposition, assuming you’re either in for the adventure or not. It doesn’t take long for Nate and Sully to meet up with the mysterious Chloe Frazer (Sophia Ali), a fun and energetic addition who keeps everyone in this world-spanning adventure on their toes.
As a fan of the games, the biggest question I had was if Tom Holland could pull off Nathan Drake, playing a slightly younger version of the character we know. The answer, thankfully, is yes. He’s as charismatic as ever, sinking his teeth into playing an Indiana Jones-type. I was never once distracted by the fact that this is the same actor who played Spider-Man in one of the biggest movies ever just a couple months ago.
Mark Wahlberg does a decent job playing a wise-cracking mentor to Holland, but some of the things that make Sully so recognizable in the game didn’t survive the transition to the film. Sully is iconic, at least in part, because of his thick mustache and dark, booming voice, none of which Wahlberg has. After all, there’s no reason they couldn’t have thrown a ‘stache on Wahlberg, which even young Sully has in the games. At times, it felt like Mark Wahlberg was just playing Mark Wahlberg in an action movie instead of, you know, Sully. That being said, Wahlberg and Holland have fun chemistry, including some very good emotional scenes, so it’s mostly pretty easy to look past him not being entirely loyal to the source material.
Brand New Uncharted Movie Images
The cat-and-mouse plot doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is exactly what I would expect from a movie based on the Uncharted games. Basically, if this were a two-hour video game cutscene (which, I guess, is technically a movie anyway), I never felt like I wanted to press the skip button. We don’t get many moments that lean into its video game origins, but the movie does a fine job bringing the world of Uncharted to life.
It plays it safe, seeing Nate, Sully, and Chloe engaging in witty and sometimes tech-heavy banter that isn’t prevalent in the games (for example, Nate makes fun of Sully for having Tinder on his phone). The trio gets into their fair share of fights, chase scenes, and booby traps as they go about collecting clues, solving puzzles, and traveling the world. It’s all pretty straightforward, but there were plenty of fun reminders that I was watching an Uncharted movie.
Uncharted is a safe but serviceable sampling of a new globe-spanning adventure.
Plus, Uncharted sets itself apart from other generic heist movies by leaning in on its solid dialogue and the silly, immature ways Nate tends to act in deadly situations. Very early on, Nate bumps into fellow treasure hunter Moncada (Antonio Banderas), and the way they exchange quips is endearing in a cartoonish sort of way. These types of scenes will be fun for a casual audience, but for those familiar with the games, it’s a loving recreation of the defining traits we know and love the most about Nathan Drake.
Speaking of the villains, the ones here are mostly forgettable. Antonio Banderas is great, but he’s not on screen nearly enough; his hired gun (Tati Gabrielle) is meant to be an equal rival from Sully’s past, but so little time is spent with her that I had to look up her name (it's Braddock) after I finished watching because the few passing mentions weren’t memorable at all. The villains’ storylines are anti-climatic and one-dimensional, and any motives for seeking the big treasure beyond simple greed are unclear. In a way, though, it’s oddly fitting, because while the Uncharted games have featured many antagonists, the real evil has always been about what greed can do to people. That theme is present throughout the movie, and that’s good enough for me.
My favorite scenes in Uncharted all lived in the final act, where we finally see Nate and Sully in their element of pirate caves, shootouts, and shouting one-liners while being attacked by henchmen. It’s not until the end that we truly see the movie lean into its video game counterpart, with Holland running, jumping, and narrowly escaping death in moments that could have easily been a quick-time event.
The love for the games is especially present in two mid-credit scenes, and it made me wonder why this movie couldn’t have been more of a direct interpretation. While it gets away with doing a new origin story and remixing other storylines directly from the games, it left me wanting more in a frustrating way. Still, if it’s your first experience with Uncharted, it’s a solid adventure that benefits from Holland’s charm, no matter how straightforward the plot might be.
Uncharted is a safe but serviceable sampling of a new globe-spanning adventure. As a young Nathan Drake, Tom Holland is fun to watch and has good chemistry with Mark Wahlberg’s Victor Sullivan, even if their antagonists are pretty forgettable and the story never thinks outside the treasure chest box. This should be effective in introducing the world of Uncharted to people who are meeting Nate and friends for the first time, although the changes it makes can be inexplicable and jarring to those of us who’ve spent many games with these characters.