Film review: ‘UNCHARTED’ by Nick Gardener from ‘Built For Speed’

The moderately exciting, occasionally funny but mostly ridiculous Uncharted is based on a popular video game but this dubious mix of archaeological adventure and caper comedy owes just as much to a film like National Treasure.

Uncharted is essentially a treasure hunt as bar tender and petty thief Nate Drake (Tom Holland) – a descendant of Sir Francis Drake, no less – reluctantly teams up with the suspicious, gold-obsessed fortune hunter Victor ‘Sully’ Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg) in pursuit of lost riches. In a ludicrous plot device, the two go in search of loot allegedly hidden (around 1521) by crew members from Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan’s final voyage. To lure Nate into the scheme, Sully promises to reunite him with his long-lost brother.  Armed with clues, ancient maps and the odd stolen artefact, the two, along with questionable accomplice Chloe (Sophia Ali) navigate a course through historical sites mostly in Barcelona where they’re pursued by the resident evil rich guy Santiago Moncada (Antonio Banderas) and his ruthless, knife wielding henchwoman (Tati Gabrielle).

A film like this is largely meant to be an excuse for escapist thrills and there’s a decent helping of action sequences here.  Unfortunately, while they have a fidgety energy, the curse of choppy editing kills much of their excitement and often leaves us wondering what the hell is going on.  Directors really need to revisit the classic Hollywood and Hong Kong action films to see how to construct coherent fight scenes.  Also, this film has almost no connection to the laws of physics as action scenes regularly feature characters flying through the air seemingly defying gravity and people brushing off hits to the scone that would knock out a rhinoceros.

There are also bizarre lapses in logic – not just in the film’s more outrageous effects-driven scenes, which at one point see a Portuguese galleon being flown by a helicopter – but in characters’ behaviour with Sully at one point having a massive public brawl where he throws someone through a window and then five seconds later walks away casually with no one paying the slightest attention.  The film is also plagued by that modern movie curse, digital video, which drains much of the colour and texture from the sweeping shots of exotic locations like the Philippines. There’s also some very obvious CGI which reminds us we’re watching characters dangling in front of a green screen.

As his prominence in the movie’s poster suggests, this film is very much a vehicle for Tom Holland, who, as a result of the massive success of the Marvel films and in particular Spider-Man No Way Home, has become a superstar. He’s well cast here as the likeable, cheeky Nate and displays precocious energy and charisma reminiscent of a young Michael J Fox.  Mark Wahlberg isn’t always the most appealing screen presence, often displaying the demeanour of a sullen white rapper. While he’s near impossible to accept in a serious or sympathetic role, he’s well suited to playing slightly contemptible comical characters like his bad ass cop parody in The Other Guys or the sneaky and selfish Sully.  He and Holland don’t entirely connect – they’re not exactly Hope and Crosby – but they make a passable team.  Perhaps most impressive, though, are the two females, Sophia Ali and Tati Gabrielle who bring more feistiness and swagger than the males.  Unfortunately, Antonio Banderas is badly wasted in an underwritten role as the resident villain, he’s allowed one megalomaniacal speech and little else.

There’s just enough energy, humour and globe-hopping fun to prevent Uncharted from becoming a complete misfire but in the pantheon of historical, tomb robbing adventure films, this one’s sitting a lot closer to Crystal Skull than Raiders.

Nick’s rating: **1/2.

Genre: Action/ adventure/ comedy.

Classification: M.

Director(s): Ruben Fleischer.

Release date: 17th Feb 2022.

Running time: 116 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.


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