Review by C.J. Bunce
It’s easy to see how Uncharted was slated for a major big screen movie release. Take Mark Wahlberg, Hollywood’s biggest moneymaker and Disney/Marvel’s on the rise Tom Holland, and hundreds of millions of dollars to form an action-adventure mixing elements of Indiana Jones, The Goonies, Pirates of the Caribbean, Sahara, and the craziest stunts of the Fast & Furious movies. In fact the only thing it’s missing is the John Williams score to make this a full-fledged Indiana Jones reboot. Featuring two leads from the Sony video game, Nathan Drake and Chloe Frazer, it also firmly plants itself as the next hopeful video game franchise going big after the similar genre successes Tomb Raider and Assassin’s Creed. Now streaming on Netflix, consider Uncharted a sure bet, especially compared to Netflix’s similar action-adventure 2022 movie Red Notice.
Make no mistake, Mark Wahlberg is still a major lead actor, but this older mentor role will surely be his future in a few years. Wahlberg plays Victor Sullivan, a treasure hunter that used to partner with Sam Drake, the older brother of Holland’s character Nathan Drake. The movie starts big, with one of those over-the-top action sequences the Fast & Furious franchise has mastered, with Nathan falling out of an airplane and cargo and an Alfa Romeo plummeting down after him. Wahlberg’s Victor is like his character in The Italian Job–a risk taker with some street smarts. Is he going to betray Nathan and take the treasure for himself? That’s the question you’ll be asking the entire journey.
The treatment of the characters is loyal to the game in the same way as Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City–there’s a lot to like here, and it’s an easy franchise to hop onboard. Wahlberg makes a better team-up with Holland than Robert Downey, Jr. in the Marvel movies. These guys have some chemistry in the buddy movie way, making a sequel easy for audiences to say “yes” to.
The guys are the leads of this “throw all the adventure tropes at the viewers at once” script under the baton of Zombieland and Venom director Ruben Fleischer, but the two women leads hold their own. Both play former treasure seeker partners of Victor. Grey’s Anatomy’s Sophia Ali is franchise heroine Chloe Frazer, a Pakistani American actress whose style and accent evokes English actress Felicity Jones. Her character is clearly on the screen more as a set-up for the next film, but she brings charisma and charm to the role. More screen-time goes to Chilling Adventures of Sabrina co-star Tati Gabrielle as treasure hunter Jo Braddock. For the pursuit of the gold of Ferdinand Magellan’s voyages, she chooses to support the story’s bad guys, led by Antonio Banderas as Santiago Moncada, current #2 in the historic Moncada family.
The story doesn’t differentiate much between Jo and Chloe–with their similar backstories, hand-to-hand combat savvy, and solid performances by each actress, you may want to cheer for both. The story also doesn’t allow viewers to play along to figure out the puzzle, as in the National Treasure movies, or The Goonies, or The Da Vinci Code movies, which might have made it more fun. It’s more Mission: Impossible or James Bond and even more Indiana Jones, complete with several homages, especially to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones, and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Spotting the throwbacks is half the fun. Keep an eye out for The Last of the Mohicans’ Steven Waddington as a Scottish thug.
There’s little to keep this away from younger audiences aside from some minor profanity. It’s not The Goonies, but the climax goes into full Goonies mode as the competing voyagers fight over Magellan’s large, original, brittle wooden ships as they are transported by helicopters across the ocean. Yes, it’s that kind of crazy stuff, but the movie doesn’t hide what it is. It’s not careful historical fiction, it’s rip-roaring fantasy, and a good start for a video game franchise that has been popular enough to sell more than 40 million copies.