Uncharted script just not up to the job
(M, 116 mins)
Directed by Ruben Fleischer ★★
Reviewed by Graeme Tuckett
Here’s something I don’t admit to just anyone, but I’m actually really fond of the National Treasure films.
Yeah, I know they’re dumber than toast and only get by on some terrific casting and a few decent set pieces, but sometimes that really is all you need.
And, of all the genres out there, the whole buried-treasure schtick is dafter than most.
But if you get it right, as the National Treasure films and a couple of the Pirates of the Caribbean instalments managed to, then watching a disparate and photogenic bunch of thesps follow the clues, get into scrapes, inevitably turn on each other – and win in the end – is still many people’s idea of a fun way to spend a couple of hours. And I have no problem with that.
So, I didn’t walk into Uncharted unenthused.
The trailer looked moderately promising and the plot – some nonsense about Magellan’s lost gold – sounded at least potentially sturdy enough to carry whatever kinetic silliness the writers wanted to heap upon it. And then, sadly, just in time to wreck my good mood, the film started.
Uncharted would seem to have the basics in place, with a decent cast and a simple-to-follow plot. But the film squanders it all on a script that just isn’t up to the job.
We start in tried and true fashion, meeting Nathan Drake as a 10-year-old, about to be separated from his beloved big brother Sam after they have been caught trying to steal an ancient map from a museum.
Fast-forward a few years and we catch up with adult Nathan, played by Tom Holland, getting by as a barman and pick-pocket in New York, having not heard from his brother in a decade.
Into Nathan’s orbit comes a fellow thief – played by Mark Wahlberg – spouting a story about the legendary gold and claiming to be an acquaintance of Sam’s.
It’s promising enough, although tiresomely long-winded on the screen.
But from there, nothing at all really works.
In any decent adventure movie, every set piece should contain the seeds of the next so the action flows with little explanation needed. But Uncharted – for its first hour at least – seems to have more connective tissue than meat.
And what action there is mostly involves running around Barcelona looking for a staggeringly unlikely set of keyholes in which to insert a couple of suspiciously easy-to-find and well-preserved gold crosses. Honestly, I know no-one’s expecting much from the plot of a buried-treasure movie, but even
National Treasure and co at least keep their puzzles and scrapes interesting and inventive.
Uncharted far too often betrays its video game origins – and becomes about as pointless as watching someone else play one.
By the time the big set piece arrives – the one in the trailer with the ships and helicopters – I was too bored to think much except ‘‘oh, this is where the budget went’’, because there sure isn’t much sign of it on screen before that point.
In the leads, Holland won’t do his reputation any damage, as he makes the most of the action scenes and gets through the dialogue without visibly gagging and Wahlberg dials in his usual this-is-what-you-get-if-you-can’tafford-Matt-Damon routine. Wahlberg can be fine at playing angsty, but no-one’s ever accused him of having the comic chops that Uncharted so badly needed.
Uncharted has had a famously troubled and lengthy gestation.
The project has been kicking around Hollywood for so long, Wahlberg was once attached to play the younger Nathan. Having seen the final product, I wonder why they even bothered, while I’m still waiting for a third
National Treasure to get made. Sigh.
is now screening in cinemas nationwide.