Monday 9 May 2022

Film Review: Uncharted

After years in development, popular PlayStation title Uncharted has made the leap from games consoles to celluloid, with Ruben Fleischer at the helm and Tom Holland in the lead role.

Since Drake's Fortune first arrived on PlayStation 3 in 2007, Uncharted has been something of a talisman for Sony's games console. Charming, character-driven, action-packed and fast-paced – the series is as close to a blockbuster movie as gaming gets, with explosive sequences, frenetic gunplay and likeable characters who journey to exotic settings. 

Therefore, it follows that Uncharted's transition from consoles to cinemas wouldn't require a leap – merely a skip. And yeah, Fleischer's film isn't a million miles removed from the game – all the ingredients are here. But good ingredients still need a competent cook to fashion them into something tasty, and unfortunately Uncharted isn't blessed with a superstar chef. 

We meet Nathan Drake (Holland) at a much younger age than gamers would know him; he's in his mid-twenties, bartending at a classy New York joint, and snatching expensive jewellery from the bar's rich clientele. That's where he meets Victor Sullivan (a passable but still miscast Mark Wahlberg), a smooth-talking treasure hunter who needs an extra set of hands for a job he's sizing up. 

As such, the film almost serves as a prequel of sorts to the games. This is a young Drake and a young Sully embarking on their first adventure together, before they form a pseudo-paternal bond. I'll admit I had my doubts about Holland's casting – it felt like Sony was trying to capitalise on the Englishman's fame rather than finding someone who genuinely fit the role.

But in taking the prequel route, I buy Holland as a more naive Drake, with clean skin and hopeful optimism in spades. He's doing something different to his Spider-Man schtick, and confidently carries the charisma, the action and the weightier character moments. 

Rather than a straightforward adaptation of the first game, the film is essentially a remix of different characters, plot beats and set pieces from all four. The quest for Spanish gold plot from the first, antiheroine Chloe Frazer from the second, an aerial cargo plane action scene from the third and Nate's brother Sam from the fourth. 

Wahlberg has a harder time winning over this ardent Uncharted fan. Setting aside the fact that I'm just not a Wahlberg fan, I just didn't buy him as Sully – the mannerisms and the attitude aren't right. 

The other existing character is Sophia Taylor Ali as Chloe. This is another role the film gets right, so if there is a sequel down the track, fingers crossed that Chloe still factors into the equation.

I know movies based on games get a bad wrap, but I think Uncharted is an exception to the rule. It's not an outstanding attempt, granted, but it isn't a complete stinker either. Holland is a compelling lead, the action is bouncy and entertaining, and there's fun to be found amidst some of the failings (specifically Wahlberg, I will die on this hill). 

I tried to set aside my precious feelings about the games, and as a result, I had a good time. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to play Among Thieves for the sixteenth time. 

The Verdict: 6/10

It's fun and frothy, but Uncharted the film doesn't hold a candle to the Uncharted games, which are still some of the best single-player experiences out there. Let's hope the sequel, which seems likely given the box-office results, skews a little closer to the games and leans into what makes them so great.

Uncharted is now available to rent on VOD.

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