International treasure: ‘UNCHARTED’ discovers harmless joy in film adaptation of popular video game

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Preston Barta // Features Editor

UNCHARTED

Rated PG-13, 116 minutes.
Opens Friday in theaters.

I’m not even going to pretend I played the Uncharted video games. But I have enough knowledge from friends to recognize a thing or two (maybe a cameo from a voice actor?). While I won’t be making any side-by-side comparisons between the games and the new film adaptation, what I can say is the Uncharted movie is soothing, extremely watchable B-level entertainment with a dynamite pairing in Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg. It’s goofy and completely nonsensical, but it’s also a funny and thrilling adventure akin to The Mummy, the Jumanji films and National Treasure.

After multiple production delays due to COVID-19, the film is finally arriving in theaters and IMAX screens this weekend. From what I’ve been told, the film adaptation takes inspiration from the fourth game in the PlayStation franchise, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Directed by Venom’s Ruben Fleischer, the origin story follows the street-smart Nathan Drake (Holland) as he goes on a globe-trotting journey in a bid to find unique treasures. He’s recruited by seasoned treasure hunter Victor “Sully” Sullivan (a no-mustached Mark Wahlberg) to recover a massive fortune lost 500 years ago by a world explorer. However, when an ancient key to unlocking the gold’s location hits a New York auction, the duo soon realizes they’re not the only ones searching for clues. Look out for Antonio Banderas’ ruthless Moncada, Sophia Ali’s lovely-but-questionable Chloe Frazer and Tati Gabrielle’s cutthroat mercenary character Braddock. 

The movie begins in media res, opening with the film’s arguably most gripping action scene. It sees Nathan tumbling out of the back of an airplane with several cargo containers. Holland brings over some of his Spidey characteristics when he accidentally knocks a goon to their death, saying, “Oh, man. Sorry!” But don’t worry about this feeling too much like Holland being plucked from No Way Home and tossed into another IP property. Holland carries over the charm, but he’s got some solid witticisms that punch up what we’ve seen. He even learned some impressive bartender tricks for the role, so you could buy Nathan’s sly hands. It’s believable and fun to watch.

As Sully, Wahlberg is a good match for Holland, giving this older brother vibe with his smug attitude. Nathan and Sully’s dynamic is one of the strongest aspects of the film, toying with our emotions as to whether we should trust them together or not. The guessing game of the relationship keeps you locked in, especially as more shady characters pop into the picture.

As far as the action goes, it’s not too far off from the Fast and Furious’ ignorance of physics and logic. It’s more grounded than cars cable-flying over bridges and jetting into space, but there are plenty of moments that press on the ludicrous gas pedal. Watch characters in Uncharted swing around on light fixtures and old ropes like they have endless lives to spare (kind of like a video game), and laugh hysterically at all the technology that survives water submersion. (Maybe they got Lil Wayne to test out their earpieces with champagne?)

Regardless of the action IQ, the charm and jokes of the characters butter that popcorn. Moreover, it plays nicely on the IMAX screen. You might be able to notice some green screen frames and grainy stock images (as they go from location to location). But when the arms go swinging, the guns go bang and characters parkour all over Spain, it’s a delicious spectacle in a theatrically dry season.

Grade: B-

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.