Uncharted Punches Above its Weight
Street-smart Nathan Drake, is recruited by seasoned treasure hunter, Victor “Sully” Sullivan, to recover a fortune amassed by Ferdinand Magellan, and lost 500 years ago by the House of Moncada.
Uncharted is one of those movies that isn’t particularly special in the macro but does all the little things right. An adaptation of the popular video game that’s been in the works for an unusually long period of time, it’s a globe-trotting adventure that borrows elements from everything from the Indiana Jones series to National Treasure.
I didn’t care much at all about the treasure-hunting plot, or about any of the numerous MacGuffins that are dealt with along the way. But I enjoyed the banter among the characters, most of the action, and the photography of the locations.
Director Ruben Fleischer has had a mixed career, having made the enjoyable first Zombieland movie, the less-good second one, and also subpar stuff like 30 Minutes or Less and Gangster Squad. He made the first Venom movie, which I despised but others seemed to have liked, back in 2018. But Uncharted is much better than his other recent efforts.
(Disclosure: I have never played the video game and don’t know anything about it; this review is judging the film as a film only.)
The film stars current Spider-man Tom Holland as Nathan Drake, a bartender, pickpocket, and aspiring treasure hunter. In possession of postcards from his long-lost brother, he dreams of going around the world to find billions in lost gold.
A more established treasure hunter, Victor “Sully” Sullivan, offers to help him on that mission, and they’re soon joined by Chloe Frazier (Sophia Ali), although whether they can trust one another is another question entirely. There’s also a rival team of treasure hunters, led by Antonio Banderas, and assisted by both a badass female fighter (Tati Gabrielle) and a large Scottish henchman whose accent is unintelligible (Steven Waddington.)
Uncharted, like so many films in the genre, jumps around the world, with sequences set in New York, Barcelona, and Southeast Asia. There’s also one sequence, set on a plane and outside of it, that makes the physics and gravitational traditions of the Fast and Furious movies look like something from a documentary.
There are some very good action scenes, including a brawl at a high-end auction house that’s a better version of something we’ve all seen many times, and a complex bit in which one character has to save two others from drowning by breaking glass in a Papa John’s (sounds silly, I know, but just go with it.) The final sequence, involving boats and helicopters, is rather incoherent.
Holland is fine in the role. He tried to stretch his persona to play a drug-dealing bank robber in 2020’s Cherry, with disastrous results, but he’s better here. And somehow, this is the first time in his career that Mark Wahlberg has portrayed a character named “Sully”; I would have guessed he’d had done so at least three or four times already.
But it’s Sophia Ali, a little-known actress who has been on Grey’s Anatomy and starred in a festival film last year called India Sweet and Spices, who walks off with the film as a badass who kicks ass and holds her own with the more famous co-stars while rocking a unique English accent (the actress is American.)
Would any of the interminable other versions of Uncharted that almost happened have turned out better than this one? I guess we’ll never know. But the one we got is already the year’s most overachieving movie.Watch Uncharted