Directed by: Ruben Fleischer | 116 minutes | action, adventure | Actors: Tom Holland, Mark Wahlberg, Antonio Banderas, Sophia Ali, Tati Gabrielle, Steven Waddington, Pingi Moli, Tiernan Jones, Rudy Pankow, Jesús Evita, Georgia Goodman, Diarmaid Murtagh, Joseph Balderrama, Serena Posadino, Alana Boden
The first ‘Uncharted’ game, a combination of treasure hunting in ‘Lara Croft: Tomb Raider’ and practicing parkour in ‘Assassin’s Creed’, was released in 2007. Although this combination already provides a good foundation, the game and its four sequels owe its success mainly to the way it plays like a movie. Or even more specifically, a thrilling action-adventure film. The player is placed on the roof of a moving train, has to climb several times under time pressure from a falling vehicle that seems to fall into a ravine and visits beautiful temples filled with ‘Indiana Jones’-like traps. Fifteen years after the arrival of the first game, these cinematic scenes are actually performed in a film adaptation.
‘Uncharterd’ (Ruben Fleischer, 2022), the first film production from Sony’s Playstation Production, brings the player back into the story of Nathan Drake (Tom Holland) and Victor Sullivan, aka Sully (Mark Wahlberg). In the games, these two characters are like father and son and work together to search for various treasures, often related to well-known figures from history. The film shows how the two found each other and can thus be considered a prequel to the games, with returning characters such as Chloe Frazer (Sophia Ali) and Nathan’s brother Sam (Rudy Pankow). As usual, Drake and Sully are timed to find the treasure for a competitor. In the film it is Santiago Moncada, wonderfully played by Antonio Banderas, who considers the treasure as his heritage.
When you film a game that is unique because it plays like a movie, the movie loses that uniqueness. It is therefore important that the film refers to the game enough to retain the same feeling. ‘Uncharted’ is partly successful in this, but also falls short. In the story, the film follows the same kind of structure as the game. The viewer is immediately placed in the middle of a tense action scene, where Drake is in trouble. With no information as to how he got in there or how he’ll get out of it, the film flashes back to his childhood and then to the present and then plays the rest of the film there. Other elements from the game also return, such as the way in which text is displayed. There are also some ‘first-person point of few’ shots. This means that the perspective is shown from Drake’s character.
The film falls short in the way that it relies on the knowledge of the viewers who know the games. There is a strong nobody-to-trust atmosphere, which stands in the way of deepening characters. The film also largely takes place in a well-known European city and the well-known ‘jungle cruising’ on the way to an ancient temple is missing. The treasure that is eventually found, on the other hand, is not only a reward for Drake and his henchmen, but also for the viewer. Because the images are really beautiful especially at the end and do justice to the games. Just as the action scenes can sometimes come across as a bit exaggerated, these are no more extreme than when they are in the games and they fit well.
As a standalone film, ‘Uncharted’ would be mostly a big action spectacle without much substance. But certainly for fans of the games, the film fits in well with the story of Drake and Sully. These fans are even treated to a cameo from Nolan North, the voice of Drake in the game. For the other viewers, this film will undoubtedly provide enough entertainment. A combination of a squat, treasure hunting and flying ships makes ‘Uncharted’ a film that makes you long for a sequel.