Review: ‘Uncharted,’ Trapped in a Video Game

Do not miss the opening scene, especially if you risked your life during a global pandemic to see this movie on the biggest screen possible. (On IMAX it looks truly phenomenal!)

The movie proper begins after the in media res opening scene and a flashback, which sounds like a long way to travel, simply to start a mindless movie based on a video game, but it sets up the sequence of events to follow and succeeds in making one anxious to watch the next action scene, whatever it might be, because it promises to relieve the tedium of sitting through yet another narrative exposition, which really doesn’t matter anyway, since this movie is all about the action scenes. 

Did I mention it’s based on a best-selling series of video games? 

I’ve never played any of the games in question, which began with Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, released in 2007. Per Wikipedia: “The main series of games follows Nathan Drake, a treasure hunter who travels across the world to uncover various historical mysteries.” 

Well, that’s basically the plot of Uncharted, the live-action movie, directed by Ruben Fleischer, known especially for good-hearted comedies, starting with Zombieland (2009) and the extremely zippy, if less-heralded 30 Minutes or Less (2011), followed most recently by the larger-scale action pictures Venom (2018) and Zombieland: Double Tap (2019), which both played down to lowered expectations. 

Displaying lovely busy backgrounds in an artificially-enhanced atmosphere that doesn’t feel like the world in which we currently live, Uncharted follows Nate Drake (Tom Holland), a big-city bartender who makes a modest living, boosted by his earnings as an expert pickpocket. One night, Sully (Mark Wahlberg) enters his life, offering the Kid an opportunity to join him on a mission to hunt down the greatest treasure ever known. (The movie is not short on a steady supply of self-applied superlatives.) 

Sully also teases the possibility that he knows what happened to Nate’s beloved older brother, who disappeared some 15 years before. (Watch the early flashback for pertinent story details.) With that possibility in mind, Nate agrees to join Sully, but first an adversary or two needs to be introduced, along with another friendly collaborator who cannot be trusted.  

Tati Gabrielle adroitly portrays Braddock, a sleek, mysterious and deadly figure; Antonio Banderas plays Santiago Moncada, an heir to a fortune who speaks Spanish, which makes him immediately suspect; and Sophia Allie embodies the winsome Chloe Frazer, whose true motives remain unknown, yet highly suspicious. 

Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg manifest their charming, friendly, and winning personalities as though they were on the longest red carpet in the world, which makes their constant, occasionally amusing banter the rightful center of the wildly uneven action adventure. 

In the screenplay, which is credited to Rafe Judkins (the recent Prime Video series The Wheel of Time) and the team of Art Macum and Matt Holloway, who also produced, and are known for writing Transformers: The Last Knight and Men in Black: International, Uncharted doesn’t explore new territory so much as it reimagines a modern adventure movie. The film is quite open in its unspoken admiration for the great action classics that have come before, and even proudly name-checks one. 

Its focus, though, is on imagining ever more outlandish and outrageously elaborate action sequences. Slender as it is, the slender plot-line is only intended to connect, somehow, the dashing, incredibly involved, daring-if-they-were-real sequences, which are deliriously unrealistic and unmoored to any sort of recognizable human reality. 

The plot holes are big enough to hurl a flying pirate ship through, with room to spare for anything else your heart might desire to see on a big, big movie screen. The more, the merrier. 

The film opens Friday, February 18, only in movie theaters, via Sony. For more information about the film, visit the official site.