Review: Tom Holland Charms Audiences in a Refreshingly Fun ‘Uncharted’ Adaptation

Tom Holland makes a big splash in his first major franchise venture outside of Spider-Man, as he dons the beige Henley and worn leather shoulder holsters and steps into the role of the intrepid adventurer Nathan Drake in the Uncharted adaptation.

Uncharted opens with the highly-teased and highly-stressful airplane scene, which featured heavily in the trailers and the extended look that Sony dropped last month. The sequence is pulled straight out of Uncharted: Drake’s Deception, but with a few major changes and a drastically different outcome that doesn’t arrive until midway through the film. That’s right, the opening might throw you headfirst into hair-raising action, but you’ll have to wait to see how it all plays out.

Nathan Drake’s origin story in the film is not too dissimilar from the film. He and his brother Sam (Rudy Pankow) are the alleged descendants of Sir Francis Drake. Due to circumstances with their parents, they were raised by nuns at the Catholic orphanage Saint Francis' Boy's Home. Uncharted gives audiences a quick primer on who the brothers are via a flashback that feels a lot like a cutscene in a video game, especially since the scene sets up a major piece of the film’s overall plot.

In the present, Drake is working as a bartender in New York City. It’s been around ten years since he last saw Sam, but he still occasionally sends him postcards from his grand adventures. Holland is so effortless in doling out the charm, that he will undoubtedly have audiences head-over-heels for Nathan Drake within the first handful of minutes.

Uncharted
Courtesy of Sony

Oh yeah, and Mark Wahlberg is there too. In the video games, Victor Sully is a pretty charming guy in his own right. He’s affable, provides good banter with Drake, and kind of plays a fatherly role in his life. Albeit, with a few quirks and foibles along the way. In this, Sully’s a bit more of an older brother to Nate, who takes him under his wing and teaches him a few hard lessons. Unfortunately, Wahlberg never quite achieves the kind of personality that one expects from Sully. There are a few times where he almost arrives, but most of the time he’s just kind of there occupying the screen.

Wahlberg’s performance is completely overshadowed by Holland and Sophia Ali’s Chloe Frazer, who have electric scene chemistry and play off each other well in even the most dire situations. Wahlberg owes a lot to the fact that Holland can carry their own scenes and make it work. Holland does most of the heavy lifting required to really sell their uncertain partnership and it pays off in droves in the final act of the film.

The unlikely trio set out on an epic globetrotting adventure to track down “the greatest treasure never found,” piecing together centuries-old clues and puzzles, all the while Nathan tries to piece together the clues that might also lead him to his long-lost brother’s whereabouts. Along the way, they run into a lot of trouble, both with Sully’s sort-of ex-girlfriend Braddock (Tati Gabrielle) and Santiago Moncado (Antonio Banderas), the man with a major stake in hidden treasure.

For fans of the video game series, Uncharted borrows just enough substance from Naughty Dog’s stories to be satisfying, while not forcing you to rewatch all of the daring levels that you have played or relive the cutscenes that you have already watched. This particular iteration of Nathan Drake’s tale feels like a merger of Raiders of the Lost Ark meets Cradle of Life, with a little Pirates of the Caribbean thrown in for good measure—and it works.

Folks will need to set aside their mid-2000s fancast of Nathan Fillion and just embrace Tom Holland’s Nathan Drake. He’s charming, funny, and surprisingly well suited for this role. He may not be the world-weary Nathan Drake from the video games, which makes for a refreshing redux, and allows a new audience to fall in love with the roguish treasure hunter. Once you move beyond “these characters aren’t exactly like the video game” you will end up having a lot of fun with this new cast of characters to get to know.

uncharted tom holland sophia ali
Courtesy of Sony

This may be a film released in 2022, but it absolutely feels like a film that could—and should—pair nicely with Angelina Jolie’s venture as Lara Croft. Drake and Croft are very similar video game characters and it makes sense that both film adaptations have the same aesthetic and styling. There are daring stunts, high-flying action sequences, and moments that will force you to set aside the realms of believability.

You are not buckling into a hard-hitting drama or even the most genre-defying action-adventure. It’s a straightforward video game adaptation that will leave you ready to sign up for the next Nathan Drake adventure. And fear not, the film’s ending—and mid-credit scene—make it clear that Sony has big plans for the next page of Drake’s story.

Dear history lovers, you will find yourself rolling your eyes the same way that you do with Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider. In fact, there’s a whole sequence in the last act that will require you to shut off your history brain the same way that I had to completely disassociate. Audiences aren’t looking for painstaking restoration or proper artifact care. Remember, you’re not here for a historical time, you’re here for a good time. And Uncharted is a ridiculously fun adventure to just sit back and enjoy.

Uncharted comes in at just under two hours and the film’s director, Ruben Fleischer, doesn’t waste a single moment on superfluous storytelling or dwelling on characters outside of the core cast. The script doles out just enough information to keep the focus on Nathan Drake—just like with the game. It’s also very clearly designed to be a family-friendly film, pulling from Tom Holland’s Spider-Man success to attract an audience that probably hasn’t played the game. The violence is present, but surprisingly not very violent; the stakes are high, but never too high; and the dialogue is clean, upbeat, and delightfully witty.

Uncharted is an action-adventure flick that pays homage to the video game that birthed it, but has chosen to chart its own course with Tom Holland at its helm. Holland is fully equipped to carry another franchise on his shoulders with Uncharted and there is a lot of room for him to really grow into the role of Nathan Drake, in the same way that we all grew into the gameplay with each new release.

Uncharted is in theaters on February 18.

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Uncharted

9

Uncharted is an action-adventure flick that pays homage to the video game that birthed it, but has chosen to chart its own course with Tom Holland at its helm.

9.0/10
Managing Editor of Entertainment at Your Money Geek | + posts

Maggie Lovitt is the Managing Editor of Entertainment at Wealth of Geeks where she covers her favorite topics: Star Wars and pop culture nerdery. She is also a freelance writer and News Editor at Collider. She has had bylines at Inverse, Polygon, and Dorkside of the Force. She is also a member of the Hollywood Critics Association.

When she is not covering entertainment news, she can be found on one of her numerous podcasts or on her YouTube channel. In her free time, she is also a novelist, screenwriter, actor, and member of the Screen Actors Guild.