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Review: ‘Uncharted’ captures the energetic essence of its source

‘Uncharted’ is the entertaining video game adaptation that follows Nathan Drake as he embarks on a path to becoming a death-defying treasure hunter.

A scene from 'Uncharted'
Mark Wahlberg and Tom Holland star in 'Uncharted', photo courtesy of Sony Pictures
Mark Wahlberg and Tom Holland star in 'Uncharted', photo courtesy of Sony Pictures

‘Uncharted’ is the entertaining video game adaptation that follows Nathan Drake as he embarks on a path to becoming a death-defying treasure hunter, performing outrageous stunts all while being very likeable.

Treasure hunting has been the foundation for a number of adventure films and video games, from the Indiana Jones franchise to Tomb Raider to The Goonies. Following the screen explorers from one clue to the next as they grow closer to the big payoff is exciting, fun and even dangerous as they’re pursued by their competitors and enemies. The experience is particularly enhanced when compared to real-life depictions of treasure hunting, which primarily relies on boring data gathering and countless failures or minimal discoveries. In Uncharted, a long-lost fortune is on the verge of being found, but it’s a matter of who will get to it first.

Nathan Drake (Tom Holland) is an orphan who feels abandoned by his older brother and supplements his income with his well-refined pickpocket skills. When Victor “Sully” Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg) suddenly shows up, claiming to know his brother and the key to finding Ferdinand Magellan’s fortune, lost 500 years earlier by the House of Moncada, Nathan can’t turn down the opportunity to join the search for his childhood obsession. However, they’re in a cutthroat race to the finish with Santiago Moncada (Antonio Banderas) and his merciless explorer-for-hire, Braddock (Tati Gabrielle), as well as fellow treasure hunter always looking out for no. 1, Chloe Frazer (Sophia Ali).

Based on the PlayStation video game of the same name, the movie brings characters some viewers have accompanied on numerous adventures to the big screen to tell its main protagonist’s origin story. In addition to key personalities, the adaptation transports a number of familiar elements from the game to the film, including clues hidden by breakable objects, the need to make superhuman jumps to and from objects, and sneaking around to avoid detection by intimidating enforcers. Consequently, the stunts are big and thrilling from start to finish. Nathan uses parkour in a number of chase sequences, evading pursuers, and running after thieves as he learns no one can be trusted in this trade. There’s also a number of battles set in the air, requiring some quick thinking and precise maneuvering to avoid certain death.

The film’s casting is one of its greatest benefits, beginning with the brotherly camaraderie between Wahlberg and a surprisingly buff Holland. The pair spend much of the movie effortlessly razzing each other, bringing a natural sense of humour to the narrative — another significant component of some of the more memorable big screen adventure fictions, including director Ruben Fleischer’s breakout feature debut, Zombieland. Conversely, Banderas is always an impeccable bad guy who brings a sense of intensity and desire to his character, while Gabrielle hones her ruthless personality in this more grown-up villainous. Ali’s explorer falls somewhere in the middle as she walks the line between attractive team player and femme fatale who proves equally capable in their search for gold. The picture also includes a special cameo by the video game voice of Nathan Drake, Nolan North, as a nod to fans and an official stamp of approval from the character’s originator.

This an entertaining experience from start to finish with excellent chemistry between the cast, a number of surprises, and a delightful connection to its inspiration that will please fans of the action-adventure video game, while simultaneously ensuring it’s not necessary to have played the game to enjoy the movie.

Director: Ruben Fleischer
Starring: Tom Holland, Mark Wahlberg and Antonio Banderas

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Sarah Gopaul is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for film news, a member of the Online Film Critics Society and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer-approved critic.

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