Film Review – Uncharted (2022)

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It was always going to be a herculean task, not least due to the history of the cinematic adaptation of the best and brightest video games the world has ever seen. Nintendo took the first swing at the fences with Super Mario Bros but failed so miserably thanks to endless production issues that even star Bob Hoskins pretty much disowned the final product. Swiftly followed by Double Dragon, Street Fighter, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, and countless more, none of them sent the critics into raptures with only the more recent adaptations – Sonic The Hedgehog, Detective Pikachu – landing above the “fresh” threshold on Rotten Tomatoes. So, could the slight upturn in expectations extend to Uncharted, the long-gestating adaption of Naughty Dog’s colossal franchise that it would break out of the video-game doldrums like many haven’t? Barely.

Sony is probably on to a winner, here, and for good reason: a well-known IP, one of the biggest young stars on the planet, under the safe guidance of a filmmaker who has made three of their biggest films of the last two decades (both in terms of box office and fandom) and it has a clear run at cinemas before the Big Bad Bat returns. Then again, much of the early noise from the film wasn’t exactly overflowing with positivity so it’s surprising to say that despite many, MANY flaws and foibles, Uncharted isn’t quite the trainwreck you might be expecting. Yes, it’s poorly written, shot, and edited but underneath a plethora of wrong decisions emerges something bordering on fun, which wasn’t at all what any of us thought would transpire. 

If you’re not familiar with the games, the big-screen version sees a young fortune-hunter named Nathan “Nate” Drake (Tom Holland, older in the games) first become embroiled with season hunter Victor “Sully” Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg, also older in the games) as they trot across the globe searching for the long-lost gold said to have been left by Magellan, trying to stay one step ahead of mercenaries (such as Tati Gabrielle’s Braddock) and fellow hunters (like Sophia Ali’s Chloe Fraser or Antonio Banderas’ Moncada, who believes the gold to be a distance family heirloom).

Ruben Fleischer, the aforementioned director of Zombieland and its sequel (woo!) and Venom (boo!), follows the latter’s path with a chaotic, noisy, nauseating style that does the film no favours but it’s undeniable that some – and only some – of its ever-expansive set-pieces are half-decent if overcooked fun. But this doesn’t feel, look, sound like Uncharted, a truly cinematic and immersive gaming experience ripe for the big-screen, and while we don’t ever want to see just a literal adaptation in cinemas, there’s so much more he and writers Matt Holloway, Art Marcum, and Rafe Judkins could have brought to the table than what we have, an incoherent, half-baked mess that brings just enough riffs from the game to make it through, but we mean just.

What carries the film out of the trash can where many of its counterparts dwell is Tom Holland who swaps his tight blue/black/red leotard for a grandad-collared long-sleeved shirt, khakis, and boots as he swings – yes, he does swing again – into action as Drake. He’s hindered by the aforementioned chasms of wit, logic, or cohesion but his quick wit and enthusiasm more than fill in most of the gaps in the film’s story and logic, although  he can’t resuscitate some of them. His turns as Peter Parker/Spider-Man no doubt played some part in the creators shifting the dynamics of the character – hinted at a little in the fourth game – to an origin story of sorts rather than the older, wiser, gruffer version of Drake we see in the earlier games and Holland revels in both the role and the responsibility, bringing his boyish charm and energy going just long enough to keep the film from sinking for which, for the most part, it very nearly does. Teetering on the edge of fun and oblivion, Uncharted just about levels up. Barely.


Action, Adventure | Cert: 12A | UK Cinemas, 11th February 2022 | Sony Pictures UK | Dir. Ruben Fleischer | Tom Holland, Mark Wahlberg, Antonio Banderas, Sophia Ali, Tati Gabrielle