Based on the hit PlayStation game franchise, Uncharted goes back to the beginning to tell the origin story of protagonist Nathan Drake.
Offering a fresh experience for fans of the games and newcomers alike, Uncharted fills a gap in the games’ narrative, exploring an earlier time period where treasure hunters Nathan Drake (Tom Holland) and Victor ‘Sully’ Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg) first joined forces.
Drake is introduced in the movie as a bartender and street-smart thief, who is recruited by seasoned treasure hunter Sully to recover a fortune lost by Ferdinand Magellan 500 years ago. What begins as a heist scenario quickly becomes a globetrotting race to reach the treasure before ruthless billionaire Moncada (Antonio Banderas) – and perhaps even locate Nate’s long-lost brother…
“This is a story that has never been told,” says producer Alex Gartner. “For an audience who have never played the games, it’s an origin story of this key relationship. For fans of the games that are already familiar with the characters and the stories told within the games, they get something new, something to learn, something to explore that they haven’t had a chance to explore before. For everyone, it’s a new adventure.”
Director Ruben Fleischer (Venom, Zombieland) had dreamed of making a treasure-hunt adventure movie since he was a kid, and couldn’t believe his luck when he was asked to be a part of Uncharted.
“Uncharted truly captures all of the magic of what I love about film,” he says. “That kind of movie gave me a passion for history and antiquity – I even went to college thinking I was going to be an archaeologist. As soon as I read this script, it captured that magical quality of escapist adventure.”
In taking the helm of Uncharted, Fleischer had a big advantage in that the video games are very cinematic and the perfect material for fashioning a visually spectacular adventure film.
“The great thing about having the games as source material to base the film upon is that the tone is so well-established,” he says. “The humour, the relationship – there was a template to follow. But when you’re making a film and not a video game, you have to make it your own. It was really important to distinguish our story from the games, to show a different aspect of it. For any fan of the games who’s had the experience of playing it – viscerally immersed in it – I wanted to give them a movie that worked as a film first.”
Star Tom Holland was first introduced to the game franchise in 2016, and became an instant fan.
“I was shooting Spider-Man: Homecoming, and one of the benefits of working with Sony is they outfitted all of our trailers with the newest PlayStation,” he recalls. “One of the games they gave us was Uncharted 4, so between setups, my best mate Harrison and I would be playing. We played the game backwards – once we fell in love with the fourth, we bought the other games and caught up.”
Unlike many video game adaptations that rely on an over-abundance of CGI effects, Holland reveals that, wherever possible, Uncharted was shot in real locations and on practical sets.
“Movies aren’t really made like this anymore,” he observes. “When you make these big, big action movies, you’re just acting on a blue screen. For this movie, Ruben was adamant that it needed a tangible feeling that we were in real places, so he pushed for real sets. The crypt and church were both built. The boats are real – we had interior, exterior, and an outside exterior on a gimbal to simulate that the boats were flying. We pushed the boundaries of what we could do with practical sets.”
To further ground the film in reality, Fleischer put the athletic Holland in the thick of the action as much as possible.
“The video games set the bar so high with the action that we felt we had to deliver on the same scale,” Fleischer explains. “I love seeing the actors’ faces in the middle of the action, so that you can see it’s really them and they’re really in that place doing this. We pushed ourselves to meet that level, and credit goes to Tom Holland, who put his body on the line to achieve it.”