Familiar territory – Winnipeg Free Press

<p>Clay Enos/Columbia Pictures</p><p>Mark Wahlberg, right, and Tom Holland are history-loving thieves in Uncharted.</p>

Uncharted is based on a PlayStation game.

The game might be uncharted. The movie is not. This generic action-adventure pic covers familiar ground, with a script scavenged from Raiders of the Lost Ark, Pirates of the Caribbean and the National Treasure franchise. The result is serviceable but soulless.

Spider-Man’s Tom Holland plays Nathan Drake, a bartender, amateur historian and thief. He might steal things, but Holland’s easy charm and contagious keenness soon convince us he’s essentially a good guy. (Plus, he only pilfers from trust-fund kids.) One night at the bar, Nathan is approached by Vincent (Sully) Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg), a veteran treasure hunter who plans to steal a 16th-century Spanish gold key he believes will unlock a cache of gold hidden by the Magellan expedition. Sully also claims to know Nathan’s older brother, Sam.

Sully only cares about the gold, but Nathan wants to find out what happened to Sam, who took off when they were kids in a Catholic orphanage. Before he left, Sam reminded Nathan they were descendants of Sir Francis Drake, born to be explorers and pirates.

Cue the gold-key caper, with Sully and Nathan coming up against Santiago Moncada (Antonio Banderas), whose ancient Spanish family bankrolled the Magellan expedition — plus the Crusades, the Inquisition and Franco’s fascist regime — and who believes the gold is rightfully his. Complicating matters even further are Moncada’s right-hand woman, Braddock (Tati Gabrielle), and Chloe Frazer (Sophia Ali), an independent operator with unclear loyalties.

Clay Enos/Columbia Pictures

Mark Wahlberg, right, and Tom Holland are history-loving thieves in Uncharted.

Uncharted really works the “no honour among thieves” theme, and at any moment it’s hard to know whether Nathan, Sully and Chloe are working together or getting ready for a double-cross.

There’s no chemistry among the leads, though, so what’s supposed to be spirited banter often feels more like bickering. A lot of the script’s comic quips just hang there.

There are some casting issues. Wahlberg and Banderas are both supposed to be international men of mystery, suave and worldly, but only one convinces — and I bet you can guess which one. (The Uncharted project has been in development since 2008, when Wahlberg was initially considered for the star part of Nathan Drake, which might account for his somewhat disengaged attitude here.)

There are clever puzzles, including a Dan Brown-like selection of maps and codes and hidden messages, but the audience doesn’t really get a chance to participate, the drawback of watching a video game instead of playing it.

The action sequences — including a struggle in a plane’s open cargo hatch, a journey through booby-trapped tunnels beneath Barcelona and a contemporary pirate battle in the Banda Sea — are derivative but often effective.

Holland is the real draw here. He, at least, is having enough fun onscreen that he brings us along, too — and if a teased end-credit sequence is anything to go by, the studio is hoping he’s headed for a sequel.


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Alison Gillmor

Alison Gillmor

Studying at the University of Winnipeg and later Toronto’s York University, Alison Gillmor planned to become an art historian. She ended up catching the journalism bug when she started as visual arts reviewer at the Winnipeg Free Press in 1992.

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