Movie Review: ‘Uncharted’ Sets High Score For Video Game Movies


Tom Holland plays Nathan Drake in ‘Uncharted’. Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 15 (UPI) — video games like grave robber and Prince of Persia were reminiscent of classic adventure movies, but when they themselves were made into movies, the movies were just spin-offs. Unexploredin theaters Friday, is a film worthy of those who inspired Playstation games.

Nathan Drake (Tom Holland) is a charming thief in New York City, stealing jewelry from socialites as a bartender. Victor “Sully” Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg) offers Nathan a chance to use his skills to find a great treasure.

Sully is on the trail of Magellan’s lost gold. Drake and Sully are in a race against Moncada (Antonio Banderas) and his henchwoman Braddock (Tati Gabrielle). Drake also forms an uneasy alliance with Sully’s contact, Chloe (Sophia Ali), against Sully’s advice.

The Quest for Gold Captures a Modern Era IndianaJones adventure, which is also what grave robber games and movies were going for. Drake, Chloe and Sully solve puzzles from ancient texts and explore trapped chambers.

Some ancient temples clash with modern franchise establishments in a fun juxtaposition of the evolution of some historic towns. Large sets encompass more of a modern visual effects aesthetic, but still evoke a video game sense of solving physical puzzles and overcoming increasing challenges.

For example, the Pirates of the Caribbean and Impossible mission movies have pushed the boundaries of practical stunts and visual effects. Unexplored raises the stakes by combining a helicopter chase and a pirate ship battle.

The film obviously had to rely on green screen and visual effects elements to make this sequence possible. However, it incorporates enough natural surroundings and a sense of gravity to maintain a sense of real danger and excitement.

Drake’s fight scenes and chases incorporate Parkour and a Jackie Chan style of graceful swinging on tables and railings. Sometimes a double performs impressive stunts with his back to the camera, but sometimes Holland does it facing the front. The mixture of the two elements creates a rapid flow.

The characters attempt to evoke a game of cat and mouse with constant double crosses. In this regard, there is minimal tension since no one ever has the upper hand. So the audience never worries that the heroes won’t win again soon.

Braddock and Chloe make memorable foils, both breaking through the stereotypes of naughtiness and love interest, respectively. Drake is an endearing hero who will be fun to follow in other adventures, but his relationship with Sully has less energy than typical movie buddies. Wahlberg mumbles a lot of exposition anyway so viewers can miss half of their relationship.

Yes Unexplored wasn’t based on a video game, it would hold up with modern adventure movies. Since it is based on a video game, Unexplored overcome the stigma of Super Mario Bros. and Prince of Persia to establish a high score among adaptations.

Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a Los Angeles-based UPI entertainment writer. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001, and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012. Learn more about his work in Entertainment.

John C. Dent