|Release Date||February 18, 2022|
|Cast||Tom Holland, Mark Wahlberg, Sophia Ali, Tati Gabrielle, Antonio Banderas|
It took a good 15 years for the Uncharted series to make the jump from PlayStation consoles to the big screens. If you are coming in as a fan of those games, you might be taken aback by just how much has the story has changed to fit the runtime of a movie. I know I spent a lot of the time trying to piece things together from the story I’ve been through in the games. I realized that you just have to enjoy it for what it is and not expect things to be the exact same even though there are some notable exclusions.
Uncharted starts off exploring the relationship between Nathan Drake (Tom Holland) and his brother Sam who are both orphans living together in what appears to be a boys’ home. Sam quickly escapes the facility they were both in after they were trying to steal a special map. That provides one of the major plot points to the movie. Nate never knew where Sam went save for a postcard here and there from his journeys, he just knew he was exploring the world as he always dreamed of doing. We’re then thrown right into a scene with an older Nate who is a cocky young thief working in an upscale restaurant/bar. Victor “Sully” Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg) is looking for his next score and Nate is his recruit of choice but Nate doesn’t take too kindly to his recruiting at first until he found out that Sully had the map that Nate and Sam were trying to steal at the beginning of the movie. I appreciated the fact that they didn’t go into a ton of backstory with this one. A lot of people who will be watching this movie will have a familiarity with the games and, even if they don’t, it’s easy enough to jump right into this world and explain things on the fly if need be. Nate and Sully are quickly joined by the snarky Chloe Frazer (Sophia Ali) and the adventure starts to ramp up.
I was pretty excited when it was announced that Tom Holland would be the one to play Nathan Drake because I felt that he had the right type of personality and delivery to really pull off this character the right way. Holland is a little bit younger than Nate is in the video games but it’s a concession that works and one that might work out quite well if this becomes a series of movies. He seems like a natural fit for the role with quick wit and a lot of poise and confidence. It was also very evident in seemingly perilous situations where Holland didn’t show any fear and reacted with one-liners. I don’t think this character could have been cast any better than they did here.
I wasn’t initially quite as pleased with the casting of Mark Wahlberg as Sully. I have nothing against him and I tend to like his movies a lot but he just doesn’t seem to embody a lot of the qualities that make Sully such a memorable character. He doesn’t have that thick mustache or assertive, recognizable voice. It just felt like they could have given him at least more of that look, it kind of felt like it was just Nathan Drake and Mark Wahlberg the person, not Sully. Despite the noticeable differences, Wahlberg pulled off a very believable Sully sitting on that line of being endearing, yet untrustworthy. You never knew whether Sully was going to stab Nate in the back or not and it made for some good moments of tension throughout the film.
In what might have been the best casting choice, Sophia Ali plays Chloe Frazer perfectly to a T. Chloe is a crafty lone wolf in the game who isn’t afraid to do what she needs to do to get what she wants and play both sides. This is very much what we see in the movie and yet she still remained one of my favorite characters. I did feel like her story arc came to a pretty abrupt end late in the movie and I kind of wished we would have seen what was next for her. It’s possible that they’re saving that for a possible sequel but I really thought we’d see some sort of more meaningful interaction between the 3 main treasure hunters at the end of the movie outside of a couple of glances.
The villains in Uncharted were largely an afterthought. Tati Gabrielle played Braddock who ended up being the more notable villain but we didn’t really get to see too many scenes where she was involved nor did we get to explore her motivations very much beyond the obvious. Antonio Banderas played the main villain but he barely had any screen time so I really didn’t get much out of his limited appearances at all. It’s not unlike what we see in an Uncharted game, none of those villains have been all that memorable either. That might have been what they were going for here. The underlying theme is simply to show what greed can do to people. It’s a simple premise that has been done to death but it works in this film.
The trio of Chloe, Nate, and Sully get into a lot of chases, fights, and traps that they have to find their way out of. The banter between the characters kept everything pretty light, even in some of the most difficult situations. My favorite part of the movie was during the final act where Nate and Sully were searching for treasure in a pirate cave that resulted in shootouts and narrowly escaping death on multiple occasions with some huge set pieces. It was fun and reminded me the most of its video game counterpart which is what I was hoping for going in. I do question why it deviated so much from the source material only because there were so many things that you could have pulled from the games to work with especially if we’re looking at a potential series of movies. I mean, where was Elena (Nate’s wife)? I kept thinking she was going to show up and she was never even mentioned. That was a pretty huge change to make. I can handle changing up the storyline a little bit but leaving out a major character is hard to comprehend.
I did appreciate the love shown for the games in a couple of Easter Eggs I noticed in the movie (though there were probably more). In one scene, Nate is opening up a chest and there is a sticker for Naughty Dog inside. This is a reference to the development studio behind the Uncharted games for those that haven’t played them. The other Easter Egg involved Nolan North, the voice actor for Nate in the games, seeing Holland’s Nate wash up on the beach and having a brief exchange. They were fun little additions that didn’t take any attention away from the story at hand and I thought they were really well done.
Uncharted is a fun new take on one of my favorite video game series. It was a good way to introduce the audience to the Nathan Drake character and the premise of the Uncharted series as a whole. Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg have great chemistry together and the movie moved at a nice pace where I was never longing for some action. Overall, it’s a fun treasure hunting story with good characters, fun dialogue, and great action set pieces. Just don’t expect it to follow the games too closely.