Review – Uncharted

Big action and laughs, the most fun you will have at the movies right now.

Adapting video games into movies is never an easy thing. They turn out disastrous (Super Mario Bros, Resident Evil Welcome to Racoon City). Not everything that works in a game often translates well to the big screen. Uncharted has an advantage, its gameplay is already cinematic, but instead of having 15-20 hours to let their characters breathe, this film has a lot to do in two hours. Introduce versions of characters that people have loved for years in a different medium. Most importantly, kick-start a blockbuster franchise for Sony and Playstation. While it does try and do both, the exhausting back story for Nathan Drake leaves too much story and not enough action, which is what the games are all about.
Nathan Drake (Tom Holland) is a hustler in New York, bartender and petty thief trying to get by. Victor Sullivan / Sully (Mark Wahlberg) enlists Drake to help him find the lost treasure of Magellan. They are both connected through Nate’s brother Sam (Rudy Pankow), missing for some years now. Along for the ride is Sully’s accomplice Chloe (Sophia Ali), a part-time thief who can’t seem to trust anyone. The three of them travel to Barcelona to unlock a puzzle hidden in a church; from here, they travel on a journey across the world to find the treasure. Also trying to find the treasure is Santiago Moncada (Antonio Banderas), who believes his family has a claim on the treasure. Tagging along is Moncada’s henchperson Braddock (Tati Gabrielle) Together, the two teams are racing to find the map and location of the treasure.

With this film, casting choices was always the stopper for me; Tom Holland’s baby face was a far leap from the rugged adult Nathan Drake we know in the games. Sully actually suits Mark Wahlberg, and his physique and attitude play true to the character in the game. It was Holland that mostly surprised me. We have only seen him in Spiderman and a few other smaller films; this time around, he played a different version of Nathan Drake while less confident and more naive; it is an origin story. We could see things change if the series progresses. The film’s first half moves quite slowly; there is a lot of explaining about Nate’s childhood, how he got to where he is, and who he is that would drive him to go on this journey. When the action kicks into gear, and there are explosions, jumping, and fighting is when Holland’s work really comes into play.

One character who really stood out was Chloe Fraizer (Ali), who not only nails the “I can’t figure out where you are from” accent, along with her curiosity about Nate and her ability to see through Sully’s bullshit. Ali nearly steals every scene and is a hopeful addition to any future instalments. Ali and Holland have natural chemistry, and their scenes together are among the story’s highlights.

The visual transition from game to film is absolutely flawless. The plane sequence with cargo strapped to parachutes the ancient ships carried by helicopters. At the same time, the two teams fight on deck is a true testament to the incredible visual effects work that has gone into this film. The blending of CGI and practical effects is flawless in this; it is almost a good thing we waited so long for an Uncharted movie to allow the technology to catch up.

Additionally, the stunt work across all of the fighting sequences is well choreographed and blends in with the environment. Having a sword fight with cannons and rusty blades combined with swinging ropes looks spectacular when done this well.While the list of things that work is great, the villains, I couldn’t help but feel we’re a little underwhelming. Banderas’s take on Santiago was robotic and was out shadowed by Braddock at every point. While you could see his wealth and status, it didn’t feel intimidating while the henchpeople did all the work. This doesn’t help that the film’s first half was considerably slower when it came to progressing the story and characters.

All of this aside, does this film work as a Playstation adaptation from game to film? Yes. Is it the same Nathan Drake and co. We love from the games? No, but that’s ok. This is a different medium, and the fact that all of this pulls together so well is a testament to director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) and the team.

If you are in the mood for a big loud action film, Uncharted is the right pick for you. It heralds back to similar films like Indiana Jones and The Mummy to combine likeable actors with big set pieces, exotic locations and well-crafted choreography. While this may not be gunning for any Oscars, it is not trying to. Uncharted is a fantastic adaptation of a gaming franchise; you should take your friends and find the biggest screen possible to enjoy a great time at the movies.

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