Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg unite in a high-octane attempt to create the next new franchise from a video game

Uncharted c Sony Pictures Releasing Switzerland

Source: Sony Pictures Releasing Switzerland


Dir: Ruben Fleischer. US. 2022. 116 mins.

The characters in Uncharted may be seeking priceless treasure, but the filmmakers behind this action-adventure are arguably after something far more valuable: a lucrative new franchise. The latter ambition may prove harder to pull off, however. Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg are a likeable duo, and there are some spectacularly overblown set pieces, but this video-game adaptation ultimately feels too familiar, borrowing heavily from Raiders Of The Lost Ark and National Treasure when it’s not riffing on heist films and buddy comedies. 

In small doses, Uncharted can be irreverent fun 

After a strong showing in the UK and elsewhere, the film hits US theatres on February 18, hoping to capitalise on Holland’s Spider-Man stardom and Wahlberg’s commercial track record. Considering the success of Netflix’s recent Red Notice, there may be increased interest in globe-trotting, high-octane thrillers such as Uncharted, although reviews will be unflattering. 

Holland plays Nathan, a New York bartender and pickpocket who deeply misses his older brother Sam, an adventure-seeker who sent Nathan postcards from his journeys across the world before he went missing. One night, Nathan meets Victor (Wahlberg), who tells him that he used to work with Sam, both of them trying to hunt down billions in lost gold. Now Victor needs Nathan’s help to retrieve the fortune, their quest putting them in the crosshairs of Santiago (Antonio Banderas), a ruthless businessman whose second-in-command Braddock (Tati Gabrielle) is skilful with a blade. 

Based on the video game series that debuted in 2007, Uncharted boasts plenty of swashbuckling flair, sexual innuendo and sarcastic quips. (Nathan and Victor must team up with another treasure hunter, Chloe, played by Sophia Ali, who becomes a possible love interest for Nathan.) Venom director Ruben Fleischer approaches the material with a light touch, occasionally pausing during intense fight scenes for a wisecrack or sight gag. Even the story’s derivativeness is mitigated by a tongue-in-cheek self-awareness that invites the viewer to relish the obvious cinematic reference points. (To that end, Uncharted’s characters coyly name-check Indiana Jones — and also Jack Sparrow, Johnny Depp’s Pirates Of The Caribbean captain, during an overblown finale involving ancient wooden ships that become airborne.)

In small doses, Uncharted can be irreverent fun, but neither Holland nor Wahlberg are playing particularly interesting individuals, with much of their onscreen rapport built around arguing about the lack of trust they have in one another. (After all, Nathan is a thief, and Victor is so singleminded in his pursuit of riches he’ll gladly betray his partner.)

The plot complications grow, predictably so, when they team up with Chloe, who also has her own agenda. But rather than creating an entertaining uncertainty in which we’re constantly unsure who is scamming who, the plotting becomes tedious as the viewer waits for the next twist. In addition, the mystery of the missing gold plays out with the requisite labyrinthine puzzles, booby-traps and esoteric clues. In a stronger film, these genre staples would be pleasing, but because Uncharted isn’t that original, it has to fall back on our nostalgia for these treasure-hunting tropes. 

Holland’s boyish awkwardness is winning as Peter Parker, but here it feels more like shtick, whereas Wahlberg’s slow-burn sarcasm rarely proves to be that humorous. In some ways, their female costars create a stronger impression. Gabrielle is imposing as the lethal Braddock, and Ali does a good job conveying Chloe’s frustration that she has to work with these bickering men in order to get her hands on that gold.

A film like this lives or dies by its high-flying action sequences, and Fleischer unveils a couple of whoppers — one involving our heroes tumbling out of the sky without a parachute, the other focusing on two helicopters engaged in aerial combat while transporting those wooden ships. Sticklers for physics and common sense will have plenty to complain about, and indeed the CGI is so rampant that these set pieces are almost cartoonish in their unreality. But it’s only during such moments that Uncharted fully embraces its boisterous excesses, suggesting the shameless showmanship the picture is otherwise lacking. End credits teasers hint at what might be in store for Nathan and Victor in future instalments, but any sequel will need to strike gold far more often than this. 

Production companies: Arad Productions, Atlas Entertainment, PlayStation Productions

Worldwide distribution: Sony Pictures 

Producers: Charles Roven, Alex Gartner, Avi Arad, Ari Arad  

Screenplay: Rafe Lee Judkins and Art Marcum & Matt Holloway, screen story by Rafe Lee Judkins and Jon Hanley Rosenberg & Mark D. Walker, based on the PlayStation video game by Naughty Dog

Production design: Shepherd Frankel

Editing: Chris Lebenzon, Richard Pearson

Cinematography: Chung-hoon Chung 

Music: Ramin Djawadi

Main cast: Tom Holland, Mark Wahlberg, Sophia Ali, Tati Gabrielle, Antonio Banderas