Indiana Jones. Lara Croft. Benjamin Franklin Gates. The hunt for legendary treasure has spanned several franchises for several decades, giving us some beloved memories and the characters who made them. Since 2007, PlayStation gamers have enjoyed another name on that list of intrepid, globe-trotting treasure hunters: Nathan Drake of the Uncharted series. And after it seemed that a big-screen adaptation of the beloved games was going to be lost in the archives of development hell, Sony finally found a way to bring Nathan Drake into our local theaters with Uncharted (2022).
Nathan Drake (Tom Holland) knows he and his brother are destined to find the legendary treasure of Ferdinand Magellan. But after his brother escapes arrest from a breaking-and-entering attempt gone awry, Nate is left to fend for himself in the Catholic orphanage in which he and his brother found themselves. Years later, Nate is a bartender in New York City–and he happens to have very sticky fingers when wealthy customers wander in. However, one night, a customer who sees Nate for who he really is offers him a job: Steal a golden cross that just so happens to be a key (literally and metaphorically) to finding Magellan’s treasure. Though hesitant at first, Nate finds himself drawn into a less-than-trusting partnership with Victor “Sully” Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg).
Nate and Sully’s adventure takes them from Barcelona to the Philippines, and, along the way, they are doggedly pursued by their sometimes-partner-sometimes-antagonist Chloe Frazier (Sophia Ali), billionaire Santiago Moncada (Antonio Benderas), and his ruthless hired mercenary Jo Braddock (Tati Gabrielle). Can they beat them to the legendary treasure, or will their mistrust and the merciless tactics of their rivals be their undoing?
While that list of pop culture treasure hunters does carry fond memories, the danger of introducing a new name onto the scene is that perhaps we have too many memories. Uncharted certainly doesn’t break the mold that was set before it. The movie is loaded with familiar tropes: ancient artifacts that are clues to the mother lode, caverns and crypts with hidden doors and deadly traps, maps and ancient texts that the heroes conveniently know how to read in a short amount of time, an animated plane flying along a red dotted line to our characters’ destination, etc. Even typing out my vague and (hopefully) non-spoilery description of the movie felt a little been-there-done-that.
I remember when I wrote about the trailer for the movie, I was worried that it would be too familiar to an Indiana Jones and National Treasure-soaked culture. You could argue, given the prominence of the Tomb Raider games, the Uncharted games went up against the same speed bump.
Somehow, though, this movie really worked for me. And I think, just like the games, it’s the characters that ultimately make the movie work. I was somewhat hesitant to accept
Peter Parker Tom Holland as Nathan Drake. After years of Nathan Fillion jonesing to take up the role (heck, he even starred in a fan-made short), going with the big-name action star felt a little too much like a box office cash-grab. I had even more doubts about Mark Wahlberg as Sully (he was actually slated to play Nate for a long time). But, believe it or not, they improbably fit the roles pretty well. Holland balances the rogueish charm and the well-meaning heart of Nate in a way that would make even Thanos proud. And Wahlberg dials up a comically apathetic and selfish one-man-band who finds a soft spot for Nate (and a cat). Sophie Ali also manages to convince as a dark and tortured Chloe. And their on-screen chemistry truly produces some fun, laugh-out-loud and tense moments (I very much appreciated the running gags on alcoholic beverages and faulty lighters).
With the chemistry of the cast wooing you into Uncharted, the movie then finds a way to lure you back into the irresistible lust of a good treasure hunt. There’s something about those unknown, unexplored corners of history that we crave to be a part of; the idea that an ancient treasure worth billions rests in our back yard is enticing. Pair that with some genuinely edge-of-your-seat action scenes and some ridiculous, very Hollywood stunts like a chase scene involving flying boats, and the movie is fun enough to win the hearts of fans old and new alike. (Speaking of old fans, there’s a fun cameo about halfway through the movie–what’s the audible version of “blink and you’ll miss it”?)
At a time when the world is in chaos, it’s nice to tune out and have some good ol’ fashioned fun at the movies, especially when a lot of us haven’t had the pleasure of seeing the world for the past two years. Do writer Rafe Judkins and director Ruben Fleischer sail into uncharted movie-making waters? Absolutely not. Do they give us another treasure hunt that is worth adding into our library of favorites? Most definitely.
Yet Another (Fun! Exciting!) Treasure Hunt7.5/10
Fast-paced, Bone-Crunching action scenes7.0/10
Vicariously Traveling to Beautiful Destinations8.5/10
Sully and His Cat10.0/10
- Starring: Tom Holland, Mark Wahlberg, Sophia Ali, Antonio Banderas, Tati Gabrielle
- Director: Ruben Fleischer
- Writers: Rafe Judkins, Art Marcum, Matt Holloway
- Producers: Avi Arad, Ari Arad, Neil Druckmann, et al.
- Music: Ramin Djawadi
- Cinematography: Chung-hoon Chung
- Production: Columbia Pictures, Arad Productions, Atlas Entertainment, PlayStation Productions
- Distributor: Sony Pictures