After over 10 years in development hell, the long-awaited movie adaptation of the Uncharted video game series has finally arrived. Uncharted follows a street-smart Nathan Drake (Tom Holland) who is recruited by veteran treasure hunter Sully (Mark Wahlberg) to help track down a long-lost pirate fortune.
As a fan of the games, and knowing the video game movie track record isn’t amazing, I was nervous for this film. If anything, it was the casting choices that had me the most cautious of how it would turn out. However, I went into this film trying to be as impartial as possible and it turns out I had an absolute blast with Uncharted. It’s a straight-up fun treasure-hunting adventure with obvious shades of Indiana Jones, National Treasure and other similar action-adventure movies. I loved following the narrative, enjoyed watching the characters and thought the action sequences were all thoroughly entertaining. Now, here’s the thing – it sticks relatively close to the games in terms of narrative style, but takes a fair few liberties in relation to Nate and Sully. There are shades of the game’s characters shining through, but for the most part they feel like their own slightly altered pairing. Some may have an issue with that, but I found it perfectly fine. They’re not exactly the adult Nate and ageing Sully we know, but they’re fun to watch and their chemistry is immensely strong. 99% of people won’t know a single thing about the games, so as long as the characters are strong enough to carry the film, then that’s all really they need to be.
In terms of the story – it’s a thrilling, twist-filled rollercoaster ride packed with heist sequences and intriguing puzzle-solving that sends the characters on a global adventure. It wastes almost no time getting right to the main goal of the film, introducing everything you need to know about the characters off the bat and sending you on your way. It’s very well paced and moves between locations and plot points quick enough to where it never feels like it’s slowing down or padding for runtime. It consistently feels like you’re right on this mission with Nate and his crew, upping the intensity and sense of adventure with each subsequent scene. The best part about the narrative is that it knows exactly when to weave in some emotional drama for character development and when to just have fun. It’s easy to follow from beginning to end as has plenty of satisfying payoff, including multiple post-credits scenes that tease even more exciting story developments.
The fun, and certainly unrealistic, action set pieces are aplenty in this film. From gunfights and hand-to-hand combat to the flashy centrepiece which sees Nate hanging out the back of a cargo plane, there’s tonnes to love. The varying types of action sequences spread throughout the film help keep things feeling fresh, right through to the big climactic sequence which is sure to blow you out of the water. It’s never too loud and bombastic, but always understanding of the ‘fun over realism’ approach that is evident through the whole film. On the other side of the action is the comedy, something that’s very prevalent in the games and also a big part of this movie. The humour feels slightly altered to fit the styles of the cast, but works nonetheless. Not everything hits, with some of Mark Wahlberg’s one-liners falling flat, but for the most part the little sarcastic quips worked. There’s a number of great back-and-forth sarcastic scenes between Tom and Mark that are a blast to watch.
Speaking of that core character dynamic, it’s absolutely what makes the film work as well as it does when bullets aren’t flying around (and even when they are). The relationship between Nate and Sully is the driving force of much of the film, with each one teaching the other some thieving tips and tricks, and a lot of that comes down to the chemistry between Tom and Mark. The two of them bounce off each other really well and make for a strong pairing that I’d love to see more of. Mark Wahlberg can sometimes fall into the trap of feeling like the same Boston character in his films, but he doesn’t here. I bought him as a younger (and slightly different) Sully and actually liked what he bought to the role, including his style of humour (when it hits). Tom Holland as a younger Nathan Drake works really well – it’s a very different vibe compared to the more measured adult Drake I’m used to, but there’s no denying the kid has plenty of charisma. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, I don’t mind the character changes when the performances are good and I still love watching the characters.
These two leads aren’t the only good performances in here. I enjoyed all of Antonio Banderas, Tati Gabrielle and Sophia Ali in their respective roles. Antonio Banderas is a class act and fantastic as the slightly cheesy but also genuinely menacing villain, fitting perfectly within the world of Uncharted. Tati Gabrielle is someone who I really want to see more of, especially after her memorable performances in here and in Netflix’s You. She plays the villainous Braddock and leaves a strong impact on the narrative with some great scenes throughout. Then there’s Sophia Ali, who is great as Chloe Frazer, playing the role very much how I’d imagine a younger Chloe to be. She brings a fun dynamic to the film that no other character really brings, sharing some great scenes with both Tom and Mark throughout.
In the end, I think it’s pretty clear I had an amazing time watching Uncharted. Is it exactly how I imagined an Uncharted movie to be? Not necessarily, but I really like what they did with the story, the tone and even the characters. The action is thrilling, the treasure-hunting narrative is a blast to follow, and the lighthearted humour caps off what is a perfectly satisfying fun movie. Having Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg go back and forth makes for a number of entertaining scenes, and I can’t wait to see what adventures the two set off on going forward. Is it entirely unique? No, you’ve certainly seen other films like this before, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. Here’s to this becoming a long-running franchise, because I want more.