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UNCHARTED (2022) review

February 21, 2022


written by: Rafe Lee Judkins, Art Marcum, and Matt Holloway
produced by: Charles Roven, Avi Arad, and Alex Gartner
directed by: Ruben Fleischer
rated: PG-13 (for violence/action and language)
runtime: 116 min.
U.S. release date: February 18, 2022 (theatrical)


When the first Uncharted video game premiered and became a hit for the Playstation 3 back in 2007, it was described as a variation of Indiana Jones and immediately there was talk about bringing the action/adventure game to the big screen. Actor Nathan Fillion expressed interest which was supported by fans and directors such as David O. Russell, Shawn Levy, Neil Burger, and Dan Trachtenberg (just to name a few) were attached to helm the adaptation, with numerous writers with varying pedigrees such as David Guggenheim, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, Mark Boal, and Joe Carnahan. They all left and none of that happened, leaving fans of the nine games from Naughty Dog studios wondering if anything will ever happen with a movie version. Then in 2017, Tom Holland was cast as Nathan Drake, lead character of the series, just as his popularity as a certain web-slinger was about to kickoff, and Ruben Fleischer boarded as director. After COVID delayed production and release schedules, the movie is done and released in theaters, and it’s an underwhelming actioner that feels more like a Disney ride turned into an action flick (and not a very good one, think “Jungle Cruise”) and makes one wish Alicia Vikander would make another Tomb Raider movie.

It would be interesting to poll gamers to see who wanted any of this to happen. If they did, I’m certain they didn’t want it to wind up as uninteresting, vanilla, and sluggish as this thing is. Unlike the game, the movie doesn’t feel cinematic, exciting, or entertaining. This “Uncharted” lands somewhere between “okay” and “fine” and it makes you wish that all involved tried to create something different and original, rather than counting on a built-in fan base.

The movie opens on a mid-air action scene that will factor in later during the third act, a storytelling approach that doesn’t always work since you run the risk of viewers forgetting what’s to come and it often sucks the wind out of any suspense. The character we will come to know as Nick Drake (Holland) can be seen floating in the sky, as the camera pans out from his upward-reaching necklace (that has a ring on it) to a contextual wide shot that reveals he has just come out of unconsciousness and realizes he is dangerously stuck on cargo netting that has dropped out of the airplane above him. Once we catch up to this action sequence at the start of the third act, we’re reminded of the opening and it winds up feeling like leaving this in its linear place would’ve had a bigger impact on the overall narrative.



From here, we jump fifteen years earlier, to a younger Nathan (Tiernan Jones) attempting to steal a rare map of the world from a Boston museum with his adventure-seeking older brother, Sam Drake (Rudy Pankow). When they are caught and hauled back to the orphanage where they reside, Sam escapes out their bedroom window, leaving Nick with a lighter and a heirloom ring, promising to find his brother in the future. During this brief glimpse from the past, we learn that their parents are dead and they imprinted a love for history and treasure-seeking on the boys, as well as how influential Sam was to Nick.

When we catch up to Nick in the story’s modern-day setting, the twentysomething is living in New York City as a charming bartender and petty thief, putting the smooth moves his brother taught him to use. One night, Victor “Sully” Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg), walks into the bar he tends, and offers Nick a job. Nick brushes it off initially, but then learns they guy is a treasure hunter and the job involves an immense gold fortune related to the Magellan expedition in the 1500s, and better still, that he once worked with Sam. Hesitantly agreeing to go along with Sully, and the pair are soon on the search for a handheld golden cross which will be a key that will point to the treasure. However, they’re not alone.

At a fancy auction for the cross, the duo encounter Santiago Moncada (Antonio Banderas, who seems to pop up in these nothing parts lately), another treasure hunter searching for Magellan’s gold who employs others, like his top enforcer Jo Braddock (Tati Gabrielle, who brings much energy and intensity to what would typically be a stereotypical antagonist) to do his dirty work and working under her is a couple of heavies, one of which is a Scot (Steven Waddington, looking unrecognizable from his supporting role in Michael Mann’s “The Last of the Mohicans”) with an indecipherable thick brogue that is played for laughs one too many times.



Having stolen the cross from the auction, Nick and Sully, make their way to Spain. It appears this globe-trotting is all on Sully’s dime, but that’s never really established and the only time we see either of them in a plane is when Nick is dangling from one (we’ll get to that soon). In Barcelona, they meet yet another treasure hunter, Chloe (Sophia Ali), who suspiciously becomes an ally after a rooftop foot chase. as the now trio learn the golden cross has a twin they must find. Either the world is filled with treasure hunters or the subculture of the “business” are bound to cross in such small circles.

After a couple of inevitable double crosses, the action drops the key players that are left from that cargo plane down to the Philippine islands. The mid-air escape, ripped directly from the game, “Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception”, is indeed one of the best action sequences of “Uncharted” (even though this was done in a superior manner with Timothy Dalton back in 1987’s “The Living Daylights”, a great Bond entry), but everything else that happens after this seems really familiar. These islands are the location where gold MaGuffin will be found, with Nick using clues from the postcards his brother sent him over the course of the past fifteen years to pinpoint the booty. It all seems to line up effortlessly and next thing we know Magellan’s inextricably intact old ships are airlifted by Braddock’s team, which kicks off a ridiculous air chase with these massive relics swinging from military choppers.

“Uncharted” winds up concluding in a spotless manner with two short albeit expected scenes that occur immediately after the ending (they can’t even be called end credit scenes), indicating there are unrealistically high hopes for this movie to kick start a franchise. Overall, the whole thing feels less like an “Indiana Jones” homage and more like if you threw the two “National Treasure” movies, all four “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, and the three “Tomb Raider” movies in a blender and tried to sell it as a movie tie-in smoothie at Jamba Juice.

There are undeveloped subplots involving both the Drake and the Moncado family heritages, which are interesting albeit thinly offered. Both families are somehow linked to the original Magellan expedition, yet since screenwriters Rafe Lee Judkins, Art Marcum, and Matt Holloway, only give us snippets of information, it either barely registers or seems pointless to include. Moncado’s father, Armando (Manuel de Blas), is shoe-horned into a subplot involving betrayal and it is indicated that his ancestors are the ones who funded Magellan’s expedition. It is also mentioned, both in flashbacks and in current storyline time, that the Drakes are linked to Sir Francis Drake (known as an English explorer, yet his actions can more aptly be labeled as privateer, slave trader, and murderer) and the aforementioned ring bares the the inscription “Sic Parvis Magna” (which means, “Greatness from small beginnings”) once belonged to him apparently. None of this really adds any interest or impact to the overall story here…just flimsy snippets designed to hopefully add some heft to the story. It truly doesn’t since zero time is spent on any of it. If the film opened with a whole sequence assigned to these ancestors and a brief exploit, it could be interesting to see the difference in the mental and physical lives of what were once called “explorers” and their contemporary “treasure hunters” that exist today.




While they bump heads throughout most of the story and give each other a hard time in a bro manner, we’re left waiting for the chemistry between Holland and Wahlberg to click, which is kind of important considering the movie kind of relies on it. Sure, Holland takes top billing, thanks to his immense success as Spider-Man, but being a younger version of the Nick Drake character from the video games – one who is being introduced in the world of globe-trotting treasure hunting – it’s understandable that this Nick would need a guide. For years, Wahlberg was in the running to be cast as Nick Drake, so it would make sense that he was still on board here, just as it makes sense to cast Holland as a Drake that is younger than he is in the games. But, this movie does Holland no favors. In fact, it’s one of those rare cases where you know the actor is better than the material and that’s unfortunate when the actor is playing a lead that’s supposed to carry a movie. At the same time, Gabrielle and Ali (as Braddock and Chloe, respectively), both of whom are fun to follow and see what they do with their roles, fare better than Holland and Wahlberg.

So, what does that say about the more recognizable actors here? Well, the script definitely didn’t help them, but maybe one (or both) of them are miscast here. Again, they’re fine here, but it’s obvious they should be more than that. As a director, Fleischer has proved that he can handle comedic action with a few frights in an entertaining manner (the two “Zombieland” movies and the first “Venom” movie) for movies that don’t really ask for much more beyond that. This may be an easy hit for opening weekend and that may be due to fans of Holland or the video game series, but there’s bound to be a significant drop in the following weeks. Bottom line: You don’t necessarily want a movie based on a video game to feel like a video game, but “Uncharted” feels like it was based on an amusement park ride.





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