Opening 17 Feb 2022
Writing credits: Rafe Judkins, Art Marcum, Matt Holloway, Jon Hanley Rosenberg, Mark D. Walker
Principal actors: Tom Holland, Mark Wahlberg, Antonio Banderas, Sophia Ali, Tati Gabrielle
The action-filled adventure that Nathan Drake (Tom Holland) embarks on in Uncharted promises the brief escape from reality we may all be searching for after two long pandemic years.
And from start to finish, the film delivers on that promise. The opening scene is literally a sky-high nail-biter of a fight between Drake and the inevitable bad guys. In its final scene, Uncharted teases with the suggestion of a sequel perhaps to come.
The film develops a relatively straightforward plot entertainingly. In fact, there is so much fun, plain-old, Indiana Jones-style action that its writers may be forgiven for failing to develop the characters more.
The storyline is easy to follow. After the opening scene, in which Holland hilariously fights off a couple of incomprehensible Scottish bad guys and one tantalizingly bad girl named Braddock (Tati Gabrielle) in mid-air, we’re taken back in time to follow the events leading up to that moment.
Nathan “Nate” Drake is a young, street-smart bartender living on his own in New York City. He is also a clever thief and would-be treasure hunter who claims to be a descendant of the famed English explorer Sir Francis Drake. And he’s been searching in vain for his long-lost older brother, Sam, for more than a decade.
Late one night, Victor “Sully” Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg) shows up at the Manhattan bar where Nate works and tries enlisting him to help seek a fortune in gold worth more than 5 billion dollars amassed by Ferdinand Magellan and lost more than 500 years ago. Nate agrees, thinking he might be able to find Sam in the process.
The two treasure hunters quickly find themselves up against the ultra-wealthy, ruthless Spaniard Santiago Moncada (Antonio Banderas), who believes he is the rightful heir to the missing fortune and who tracks them around the globe as they hunt for the gold. Moncada is one of the flat characters I would have liked to know a little more about. There are more.
To be fair, this is an action film, and the weak character development may also have to do with the film’s roots. Uncharted is based not on a book or an original screenplay but on the hit video game series of the same name. So the characters are all, in effect, based on avatars.
That minor weakness shouldn’t detract from the fun, and it doesn’t. Fans of the game will be pleased to see Nolan North, who played Drake in the series, appear in a cameo in the film. And the video game really does transfer well to Hollywood. Although I’ve never played the game, at times while watching the film, I felt like jumping right in to shoot, punch, or stave off the bad guys, too.
Just like in the recent blockbuster film Spiderman: No Way Home (2021), the actor Tom Holland is clearly having the time of his life playing the lead. And his enthusiasm really is infectious. Even the dour German film critic sitting next to me during the screening laughed and cheered watching Nate mix drinks just like Tom Cruise and cleverly steal from the rich just like Robin Hood.
This film has been a long time in the making. It first began development back in 2008. Wahlberg, whose Sully plays a sort-of father figure to Holland’s Nate in the film, was set to star as Nathan Drake back then. After a lot of development delays and a four-month pandemic-related pause late in the film’s production, Uncharted is finally hitting theaters. In my opinion, it comes at just the right time for an escape, even if it’s one that lasts just two hours long. (Deborah Steinborn)