Over the course of five games, players have come to know Nathan Drake as a fearless, jovial and accomplished explorer who seemingly smiles at every turn when faced with danger. Despite the ground regularly crumbling beneath his feet, Nate always survives and continues to strive for the ultimate goal. While Nate’s mission is typically treasure, based on his adventures, the film aptly translates the series’ characters onto the silver screen, while the viewers have a good time along the way. Like its protagonist, not mapped loses its footing a few times on its way to its destination. But once the credits rolled out, I couldn’t help but feel like it had accomplished its mission.
Warning: While I try to be as spoiler-free as possible, this article mentions certain elements of the story and characters.
not mapped follows a younger Nathan Drake than we’ve seen in the main games (aside from some flashbacks). The film begins with a scene from Nate’s time in Saint Francis’ Boys’ Home with his brother Sam, but this film is largely set in the present. We pick up the modern thread again with Nate (Tom Holland), who barts in New York. After secretly demonstrating his smooth-talking and pickpocket skills, he is approached by a man named Victor “Sully” Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg) and asked to help find a special artifact needed to access a treasure.
After some planning and consultation, the two go on an adventure. As you may have guessed, the journey takes them to various locations around the world in search of long-lost treasures and historically significant riches. I won’t spoil the locations, but some cinematography and vistas do a great job of showcasing these beautiful destinations.
Along the way, we get a good look at the individual characters Nate and Sully. If you’ve played the Uncharted video games and are used to the portrayal of Nolan North, it will take a while for your brain to see Tom Holland as Nathan Drake. Holland’s performance is great though, with the charm of the character-driven moments and effortlessly weaving quips and exclamations in the high-octane action sequences. I quickly came to the Netherlands in the role of Nate, but Wahlberg is harder to sell. Wahlberg does a solid job as the silver-tongued, tough love mentor/partner, and I’ve enjoyed several of his humorous exchanges with Holland, but I never really felt like I was watching Sully on screen.
Plus, Antonio Banderas makes a suitably menacing performance as the film’s main antagonist, Moncada, even when he feels underused. As such, Moncada’s arc is unsatisfactory. Meanwhile, the mercenary Braddock (Tati Gabrielle) felt a much more cunning and menacing presence than Banderas’ Moncada from the jump. Gabrielle’s enforcement demeanor and skills led me to believe that she was the more believable problem for Nate and Sully, despite Moncada’s fortune, connections, and legitimate motivation.
To round out the main cast, Sophia Ali is excellent in Nathan Drake’s hostile, sometimes love-interested Chloe Frazer. The protagonist of Lost Legacy is well represented and we get to see the different sides of her character that we have come to know through the games. Not only that, but her chemistry with the Netherlands is excellent. Outside of the action scenes, my favorite moments in not mapped are the interactions between Nate and Chloe.
Speaking of which, not mapped shines brightest when the action increases. Naughty Dog’s games are synonymous with massive action sequences that are tailor-made for the big screen. not mapped takes full advantage of that pedigree and delivers stunning, edge-of-your-seat action on multiple occasions. We often talk about how certain video games make you feel like you’re playing through an interactive movie, but the action scenes in not mapped make you feel like you’re watching someone play one of Naughty Dog’s games.
While not mapped Delivering plenty of excitement and visual feasting throughout its 1 hour 56 minutes running time, the film’s reliance on its typical treasure-hunting formula is both its greatest strength and its most glaring weakness. Following Nate and Sully around the world as they search for the next clue is relentlessly fun, if not largely predictable. Maybe that’s why I enjoyed the over-the-top nature of the action sequences so much: the narrative threads deliver so few surprises that I couldn’t wait to see what the next massive action moments had in store. Thankfully those didn’t let me down, even if the climax is so wild it borders on absurd even for Uncharted’s namesake.
The Uncharted video games set the bar high for storytelling, and although not mapped not quite clear that bar, i had a good time from the very first scene. Through some awe-inspiring action sequences and strong performances, the film showcases the game franchise’s strengths while giving fans a new, if somewhat familiar, storyline.