Wahlberg and Holland head for adventure territory that’s far from uncharted.
Uncharted adapts a video game, but you don’t have to be a gamer to see where it lifts its inspiration. This new flick is about treasure hunters stealing ancient gold, but the bigger theft is the film’s brazen thieving from Indiana Jones, Ocean’s Eleven and Pirates of the Caribbean. Still, if anyone can carry off such brazen burglary, it’s smooth criminal Tom Holland, following Spider-Man: No Way Home with a breezy romp that confirms his star power.
Uncharted opens in the UK Feb. 11 and in the US Feb. 18. It isn’t a direct adaptation of the much-loved series of Naughty Dog games, instead telling a new origin story for two-fisted tomb raider Nathan Drake. The film does borrow its opening from the games, however, launching straight into a slam-bang action scene that showcases Holland’s easy charm and some improbably gravity-defying spectacle.
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We first meet Drake as a young boy, sneaking into a museum to steal Ferdinand Magellan’s map of the world. This junior heist goes wrong, and his beloved older brother goes on the lam from their orphanage, leaving Nathan to grow into a cocky bartender with a sideline in relieving women of their jewelry if they spurn his pushy flirting. Holland plays older Drake with his usual likable sincerity, which makes him fun to watch but utterly unconvincing as a calculating pickpocket. Still, he looks real enough to Mark Wahlberg, who shows up at the bar one night to recruit Drake for a heist that involves — gasp! — Magellan’s map, untold lost golden riches and — double gasp! — Drake’s missing brother. Next thing you know the duo are off round the world solving puzzles and uncovering ancient clues, chased by a purring millionaire and his vicious mercenaries.
If that sounds like lightweight fun, well, it kind of is. Holland’s unpolished version of Drake spends most of his time getting his ass kicked, tumbling acrobatically into various scrapes and misadventures. The opening sequence is then topped by an utterly ridiculous final act, which offers some delightfully silly and infectiously entertaining blockbuster spectacle.
Tom Holland on the run in Uncharted.
In between, however, a lot will ride on how familiar you are with assorted other movies. The first meeting between Holland and Wahlberg is a bit Ocean’s Eleven — Wahlberg even shows up in a tux, bow tie hanging loose — and the pair then proceed to reenact Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Like, the film literally re-creates the third Indiana Jones movie beat for beat. There’s a missing family member, clues in a diary and a sequence sneaking into the catacombs of a European city. It’s so brazen that I can’t list any more of the similarities because it would count as spoilers.
The filmmakers don’t make any attempt to hide this playful pilfering, giving Holland a cheeky twist on Indy’s catchphrase. But then they keep mentioning Indiana Jones, and it starts to feel like they’re protesting too much. By the way, this isn’t even the first time a video game adaptation has ripped off that exact same movie: Remember the 2018 Tomb Raider film with Alicia Vikander? That embezzled from Last Crusade so hard the villains even had the same name. It’s annoyingly distracting, but maybe movie studios bank on gamers and younger viewers never having seen Indiana Jones.
By the end, Uncharted has shifted into Pirates of the Caribbean mode, but at least brings its own bonkers twist to the poop deck punch-ups. In this sequence and throughout the film. Holland’s exuberance, decent VFX and mischievous stunt choreography keeps things watchable, which makes the inevitable post-credits scene and sequel tease more bearable.
Arrayed against Holland are a mixed bag of baddies. Antonio Banderas can do the seductive villain thing in his sleep (and probably does), while Tati Gabrielle is instantly iconic as the ruthless killer in pursuit. The only thing sharper than her blades are her outfits, and even though the script seems determined to undermine her menace she’s a welcome pop of energy in a film whose other characters are generally pretty bland. Wahlberg is OK as possibly untrustworthy mentor Sully, but it doesn’t help the film that he and Holland are basically the same guy with the same biceps in the same tight T-shirts, the only difference between them a few years (and a lot of mileage).
Ultimately, with its piracy anchored by a star turn from Tom Holland, Uncharted is harmless fun. Holland may be an unconvincing kleptomaniac but he’s adept at stealing scenes and hearts. The Uncharted movie may pilfer from assorted better films, but it’s a victimless crime.
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