There seems to be a curse hanging over video game films. They’re often lacklustre, lacking in innovation and inspiration and poorly received, although exceptions exist. Video games are a different medium and regardless of how cinematic the story might be, making a video game work and making a film work are two completely different things and Uncharted, Ruben Fleischer’s newest addition to the subgenre is yet another uneven attempt to bring the exhilaration and sheer thrill of video games to the big screen successfully. 

Nathan ‘Nate’ Drake (Tom Holland) is an orphaned bartender, who is contacted by Victor Sullivan, or Sully, for a job. Sully knew Nate’s brother Sam, who is now missing and any crumbs of information about his brother’s whereabouts gets Nate interested enough to go on a giant treasure hunt across the globe.

Sony Pictures Entertainment

Uncharted has had a notoriously difficult production history. The film has gone through the hands of several different directors and while the casting of Tom Holland, AKA the nicest guy in Hollywood, was met with mildly positive reactions, Mark Wahlberg as Sully seemed to rub people the wrong way, claiming he was nothing like Sully in the games. In other words, Uncharted was never going to please everyone and all signs pointed to the film being below average. 

That being said, despite some serious flaws, Uncharted is a perfectly enjoyable, old-school action adventure. The whole thing rides mostly on Holland and Wahlberg’s infectious and instantly likeable chemistry, but there is an old-fashioned quality and humour to Uncharted that makes it stand out from the sea of other video game adaptations. It’s funny, it’s thrilling and at just under two hours, it knows when it has outstayed its welcome. Fleischer might lack style, but his filmmaking here is controlled and he paces the rather bloated narrative well.  

The biggest flaw in Uncharted is the CGI. It’s bad, like bad-bad. The film opens with a reference to the games, throwing you into an insane action sequence. While this works well in the game, throwing a player into a situation they’re unfamiliar with, forcing them to scramble their way into safety, it doesn’t work in a film, especially if the sequence looks ugly, bland and flat. Overall, for a film that is set in multiple countries, Uncharted never looks the part even if it at times manages to walk, or at least waddle, the walk. 

Sony Pictures Entertainment

Wahlberg is the MVP here with a fun, relaxed performance as Sully. Holland mostly plays himself and is clearly on autopilot here, which is a shame because while he’s likable, he’s boring. The roster of supporting actors are forgettable and often pointless. Antonio Banderas especially feels like an outsider amongst the younger cast as he’s chewing the scenery and hamming it up in the background. Most characters have weak or unexplained motives and we’re simply to believe this is how human relationships work, although most of the time the actions of the characters are completely nonsensical. 

But when Uncharted works, it really works. Fleischer is at times too busy showing off Holland’s physique with shots of him without a shirt on, but a sequence in a nightclub in the film’s midway point is exactly what you want from a film like this; fun, breezy and exciting. The film’s script, by Rafe Lee Judkins, Art Marcum and Matt Holloway, often forgets that a compelling main character must have an arc of their own, they must learn something significant or change in some way for it all to have been worth it. Nate never changes nor does he learn anything, but watching him hustle, jump and gallop his way across the globe is still a joy.

Uncharted is now in cinemas.