Entertainment

‘Uncharted’ charts a predictable course

Though it has its charms, Mark Wahlberg and Tom Holland don't cover new ground in this average action-adventure film.

Uncharted movie Tom Holland Mark Wahlberg
Mark Wahlberg (left) and Tom Holland in "Uncharted." Clay Enos/Sony Pictures

In the new action-adventure movie “Uncharted,” there’s a moment where Nathan Drake (“Spider-Man” star Tom Holland) glimpses an elderly nun shuffling through a medieval cathedral. 

“Nuns. Why’s it always gotta be nuns?” he mutters, an obvious nod to a famous line uttered by Indiana Jones, the spiritual forefather to Drake’s globetrotting mercenary.

That the comment is neither clever nor especially relevant to the plot is immaterial. It’s an Easter Egg for fans of the popular video game series from which the movie is adapted, and a reference for film fans venturing to the multiplex this weekend in search of Spielbergian adventure.

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While “Uncharted” does manage to provide two hours of passable if unspectacular entertainment, it certainly doesn’t live up to its title, instead charting a well-trodden path previously covered by the likes of “National Treasure,” “The Da Vinci Code,” and, yes, “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

The Plot

The story of “Uncharted” more or less begins with a flashback to Nathan’s childhood in Boston at an orphanage. His older brother Sam teached him the life of a streetwise pickpocket, which leads the state to separate them. Before Sam slips the authority’s grasp, he vows to reunite with Nathan one day. Fast-forward 15 years, and Nathan is working as a bartender, distracting wealthy marks with his fast talk and undeniable charm while nabbing their wallets and jewelry.

Very quickly, Nathan is visited by Victor “Sully” Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg), a conniving con-man in search of an ancient treasure tied to explorer Ferdinand Magellan. Nathan initially refuses, but when Victor reveals that Sam was searching for the treasure as well, Nathan joins the hunt.

After that, the plot stops really mattering. Nathan and Sully steal some stuff, get double-crossed, shot at, and travel all over the globe, all while engaging in witty if perfunctory banter.

Uncharted movie Tom Holland Mark Wahlberg
Mark Wahlberg (left) and Tom Holland in “Uncharted.”

The Good

The action set pieces in “Uncharted” are some of the best scenes of the film, with director Ruben Fleishcer (“Zombieland”) staging a number of bravura sequences that pull directly from the video game series. One sequence based on a mission in “Uncharted 3,” in which Nathan leaps his way through the air at 30,000 feet back toward the plane he just fell out of, is a particular highlight.

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It may not shock you to learn that Wahlberg has little trouble playing Sully, a gruff hoodlum who peppers Nate with a steady stream of banter directly in the Dorchester native’s wheelhouse. It’s hardly heavy lifting for Wahlberg, but he performs it with aplomb.

Of the supporting cast, the highlight has to be Antonio Banderas as Santiago Moncada, a ruthless treasure hunter whose family lineage ties him to the same $5 billion treasure Nate and Sully are hunting. Banderas plays the Bond villain-esque role with ease, disposing of useless henchmen and intrusive family members with a cold sneer.

The Bad

Holland, 25, has now played Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe six times, and “Uncharted” should have been the perfect opportunity for the actor to show his range as a new type of action hero. Instead, what we get is a Peter Parker rehash, with Holland leaning on his aw-shucks persona when the character doesn’t call for it.

Holland still fares better than most of the supporting cast, who merely serve as useful vessels to advance the film’s pedestrian plot. Tati Gabrielle plays Braddock, a deadly assassin who does little more than show up and cause trouble. As fellow mercenary Chloe Frazer, Sophia Ali typifies the film’s worst impulse, in which every single scene involves characters double- or triple-crossing each other for approximately 30 seconds before begrudgingly deciding to trust each other again. By midway through the film, you won’t particularly care who finds the treasure, how they do it, or when it will happen.

Tom Holland in "Uncharted."
Tom Holland in “Uncharted.” – Sony Pictures

The Takeaway:

With omicron case numbers finally dropping, fans desperate for a big-screen movie experience could do worse than “Uncharted.” It’s an inferior version of a roller-coaster ride you’ve ridden 100 times before, but even still has its charms, especially when you haven’t been to an amusement park in two years.

Should you watch “Uncharted”?

“Uncharted” is a movie that benefits from a big-screen experience, and fans of Holland or Wahlberg will no doubt find plenty of entertaining moments. But the film is by no means a must-watch. Catching it on-demand somewhere down the line — or even flipping to the right 30 minutes of it while channel-surfing sometime in 2023 — is a fine alternative.

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Rating: 2 stars (out of 4)

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