Has there ever been a truly satisfying movie adapted from a video game? Not that I’ve seen.
It’s a conundrum when you consider that most games are cinematic in their scope and yet, time and again, they somehow fail to make the transition. Uncharted has been wallowing in production-hell for a very long time. Indeed, the original plan was to have Mark Wahlberg play young adventurer Nathan Drake, but time has moved on, and he has to be content with playing the father-figure, Sully, to Tom Holland’s Nathan.
Holland, fresh from box-office-conquering success in Spider-Man: No Way Home, could probably have chosen pretty much anything for his next project, so it’s interesting that he’s gone for this. He’s a self-professed gaming fan, so perhaps that’s what lured him. I should perhaps state at this point that I have never played the Uncharted game – in fact, apart from a few goes at Tomb Raider way back in the day, I have never felt the need to scratch the gaming itch.
Uncharted is a fun project, which makes no secret of the fact that it’s highly derivative, borrowing heavily from films that have gone before it: a splash of Oceans 11, a measure of National Treasure and a great big dollop of Indiana Jones. Indeed, the script, put together by no less than five screenwriters, openly references the latter movie several times, just in case we’ve missed the allusion.
When we first meet Nathan, he’s hanging grimly onto a shipping container trailing out of the back of a transport plane (as you do), a sequence lifted directly from the Playstation game that inspired the film. It’s pretty full on for an introduction, but happily the story then skips back to young Nathan’s life in an orphanage and his hero worship of his younger brother, Sam (Rudy Pankow). Sam is obsessed with the idea of finding treasure – specifically the lost gold of Spanish explorer, Ferdinand Magellan. But after breaking too many rules, he’s obliged to skip town and, after that, Nathan only hears from him occasionally, via a series of mysterious postcards from all around the world.
Back in the present day, Nathan is approached by Sully, who’s looking for somebody to help him find a lost treasure and, of course, it turns out to be the same one that Sam was looking for all those years ago. Sully also mentions that he knows Sam, so Nathan dutifully enlists with him. What follows is an elaborately plotted heist-treasure-hunt-action-spectacular. Thrown into the mix are Antonio Banderas as the ruthless Santiago Moncada, a man whose family history makes him believe the treasure rightfully belongs to him, his vicious hench-woman, Braddock (Tati Gabrielle), who is very handy with a blade, and another treasure seeker, Chloe Frazer (Sophia Ali), who might be trustworthy, but probably isn’t.
The action set pieces are nicely done, though the film’s 12A certificate sometimes jars with the onscreen violence. Vicious punches leave not a hint of a bruise and there’s what must qualify as the least bloody throat cutting-scene I’ve ever witnessed on the big screen. It just feels odd. But I enjoy the banter between Nathan and Sully, and a climactic sequence featuring helicopters and Spanish galleons is definitely a highlight.
All in all, this is a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours, but there’s nothing in Uncharted that will linger long in the memory. Fans of the game will doubtless complain that this doesn’t stick closely enough to the source material, while for me, the inevitable post-credit sequence which teases a second instalment, doesn’t feel in the least bit tempting.