The Uncharted game series has been a favourite amongst PlayStation fans since 2007 when Drake’s Fortune was released on the PS3. Skip forward thirteen years to late 2020 and I had only just started to play through the series. I was instantly hooked, have completed the first three games, and I’m about a quarter of a way through the PS5 remaster of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. It is safe to say that I quickly became a fan of the franchise. I fell in love with the characters, their adventures, and the relationships they had formed with each other.
However, when I heard of an upcoming film and saw the casting, I was indifferent about it. Nathan Drake and Victor ‘Sully’ Sullivan are much older in appearance in the games than their on-screen counterparts with Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg as Drake and Sully, respectively. I was torn as they looked so much younger than I expected, yet I am a huge fan of both actors and was insatiably curious on what they could potentially bring to each role.
So, does the film do justice to the legacy of the PlayStation iconic franchise? Hell yeah, it does! And I am extremely grateful I got to witness this action epic on the big screen.
Directed by Ruben Fleischer and released by the newly created studio PlayStation Productions, complete with a title screen animation to rival Marvel Studios, Uncharted opens with a scene direct from the games and charges full speed into the action. Just as the scene reaches a heart stopping moment, the film cuts back to Drake as a teenager with his brother, Sam. And in classic Drake family fashion, the pair are busted trying to steal from a museum. After being returned to their orphanage, Sam flees to avoid prison and hands Nathan the infamous Sir Francis Drake ring, promising to return.
The film cuts again, this time to fifteen years into the future where present-day Drake is mixing cocktails as a bartender and lifting jewellery from his unsuspecting patrons. It is here we are introduced to Sully. Impressed by his craft, Sully offers Drake a job to help him track down the lost golden treasures of the Magellan expedition. The same expedition Nathan and his brother talked about locating as kids. At first, Drake declines, but his curiosity gets the better of him and eventually agrees to seek out the treasure.
The main reason for my initial hesitation in my approach to this film was, as mentioned, the apparent age of the characters. In the first Uncharted game, Sully is in his mid-sixty’s, however, Mark Wahlberg looks significantly younger than this. Thankfully, this hesitation was put to rest very quickly when I witnessed Wahlberg and Holland together on screen in the bar Drake works at. The pair have a fantastic effortless and believable chemistry that made me feel like the two actors have worked together for decades. The quick wit, dry humour and on again off again merry-go-round of trust they have for each other is exactly how it felt like in the games. I could not fault their performance as a pair one bit.
Individually they are just as fantastic. In the games, Sully is a grumpy old man that does not trust anyone. In the film, he is exactly the same, just as a younger more handsome version in Mark Wahlberg. I felt the distrust in his eyes, the panic in his voice and the excitement in his smile, and like the games, I could not tell when if he was genuine or twisting the truth to get his own way. Mark Wahlberg is the perfect on-screen Victor ‘Sully’ Sullivan.
Tom Holland… what can I say except, “holy shit”! Having been used to seeing him as Spider-Man, it was a little hard at first to get past that character. But once I broke through that webbed barrier, I was captivated by his portrayal of Nathan Drake. Holland dived in headfirst and really gave this role his all. Performing most, if not all his own stunts, Holland left nothing on the table. He also bulked up for the role and you can see it yourself in a classic ‘mission prep, fitness montage’ early in the film. I loved everything about his performance from the high energy action stunts and fight scenes to the perfect delivery of cheesy one liners, to even the glee on his face when he solves a puzzle. Much like the glee I admittedly see on my own face when I complete a puzzle while playing a game, and then catch my reflection on the TV.
I said it about Mark Wahlberg, and I will say it about Tom Holland – he is the perfect casting choice for Nathan Drake, and I pray to the PlayStation Production gods that they will be paired up again.
Of course, the film would not be complete without your classic antagonists and semi-trustworthy companions. Antonio Banderas is great as Santiago Moncada, the mad treasure hunter that is driven by the belief the gold is his birthright. Banderas has this menacing bad guy vibe about him that is perfectly suited to the character. This is only enhanced with the cinematography by Chung Chung-hoon, capturing some perfectly placed camera angles that made it feel like Banderas is standing over you, ruling with fear and intimidation. Accompanying Banderas is Tati Gabrielle as lead hench-woman and fellow antagonist Hannah Kim. I was thoroughly impressed by her performance as the kick ass, take no prisoners baddie I would expect from an Uncharted story.
Last but by all means not least, Uncharted would not be Uncharted without the appearance of Chloe Frazer. The on-again off-again ally to Drake and Sully is performed by Sophia Ali. I was amazed by her take on the character and Ali really gave it her own spin without detracting from the importance of the role. If there is a sequel, I really hope that Sophia Ali returns as Chloe.
As you can tell, there is so much that I loved about this film. And the icing on this already perfectly baked cake would be the incredible score by Ramin Djawadi. This is no surprise considering he scored one of my favourite films of all time with Iron Man and has composed Emmy award winning tracks from Game of Thrones. Djawadi’s take on Uncharted was perfect and like a fine wine matched to a five-star meal, he expertly matched each piece to each scene. There is even an ode to the first game with a track titled ‘Drake’s Fortune’.
I honestly was so hesitant about this film, and I am relieved that my reservations can be put to rest. Uncharted is the perfect companion piece to the beloved gaming franchise. And whilst the story takes most of its inspiration from the fourth game in the series, it still feels like an original tale. Most importantly, it feels like Uncharted, just without my horrible gaming and puzzle solving skills. As far as film adaptations of games go, Uncharted is one of the best I have seen, and I absolutely will be rushing to the cinemas to see it again.
Uncharted is in cinemas today, so check your local guides for session times. This is one film you do not want to miss on the big screen!